“Behind every complaint lies a commitment.”

This statement was made by Harvard’s Robert Kegan, PhD during a seminar that I participated in a couple years ago.  This tremendous insight can be a guidepost for anyone seeking to interact with others as a Creator.

Of course, to complain places one firmly in the position of a Victim.  One would not complain is they did not feel victimized.  At the same time, one would not complain if there was not something that they cared about.  If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t complain.  In The Power of TED* a Victim is also characterized as someone who has a dream or desire (something they care about) that has been denied or thwarted.

In order to help shift from Victim to Creator, acknowledging and reconnecting with the dream, desire or commitment is the first step. Then the focus can shift to taking action toward the commitment, in whatever ways are possible.

For instance, if a coworker complains about how slow Accounts Payable is in paying an invoice, acknowledge their commitment to paying vendors or contractors in a timely way.  With that focus, perhaps you can explore with them how to streamline your department’s submission process to expedite payment in the future.

At home, if a teenager complains about their weekend curfew, acknowledge their desire for making responsible choices.  Perhaps then, together you could explore how they might demonstrate their responsibility to earn more freedom in their choices.

By remembering that behind every complaint is a commitment, we have a means for decreasing the likelihood of getting hooked into the drama of the Victim and a leverage point for shifting the focus – ours and theirs – as a Creator toward an outcome.