Communication 101 for Daughters and Mothers – #7 The Gift Behind Complaining

By Val Boyko • August 3rd, 2011

Have you ever had a conversation and had a new insight that really sticks? I call these “nuggets”. Like pieces of gold that we can take with us to enrich our lives. I recall a conversation with Dr Susan Campbell about communicating in relationships and here’s one of her nuggets that have stuck with me. She said:

“Complaints are wants in disguise.”

When someone is complaining its because they need something but aren’t able to ask for it.

complaining young womanIts not easy to recognize this because of the energy behind the complaining. Have you noticed how you feel when you are complaining to someone? I know that for me, there’s a strained tenseness and discomfort. Have you noticed how you feel when someone complains to you? Our subconscious is likely to pick up that tenseness. Combine that with any whining and I know that I close down pretty quick!

Next time you hear yourself about to complain, look inwards and ask yourself “What do I really want?”. See if you can discover the desire or need you have. There’s a gift of new insight to be found.

Here’s an example: You are watching your diet and you go to your mothers for dinner. She serves pizza. You say “How come you always serve pizza? I hate pizza!” Your need is to have something less fattening, but it comes out as a complaint.

If your mother or daughter complains to you, see if you can translate it into what they need. Try using an “I” message.

As the mother in this example, you could say: “I hear you saying that you don’t like pizza any more, please tell me what it is that you want”.

Try to look for the gift behind the complaining and open up a real conversation about what you want.

I hope this nugget sticks with you and enriches your relationships!




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  • COMMUNICATION QUIZ - Can You Make These Statements?

    Ask yourself if you make any of the following 15 statements. Find out if you are expressing yourself fully and are communicating with openness and presence.
    • SCORING The highest possible score is 30, and the lowest is zero. The higher the score, the higher your likelihood of having success in all your relationships. 0-9: You probably find yourself frustrated in relationships (especially with your mother) more often than you would like. 10-15: You have a high aptitude for relating and are open to learning 16-24: You have good relationship skills. How can you apply them more to your mother relationship? 25-30: Congratulations! Your capacity for present-centered relating is at a very high level.
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