Experiencing the Complaints Intervention


  • Experience the effects of discussing a frustrating issue using only solutions-oriented behaviors (rather than complaints)
  • Prepare to guide others through discussing frustrating issues in this way

Estimated time: 5–15 minutes per topic

Before you attempt to use the intervention strategy with other people, try using it for yourself. Find a person to work with—a friend, colleague, spouse, etc.—and pick an issue that’s frustrating for both of you (for example, it’s hard finding time to get together, the printer keeps getting jammed, or your babysitter repeatedly cancels on you). Go through the following steps:

  1. Review how the strategy works: After one of you makes a proposal, the other person can either 1) agree or 2) make a proposal of their own. The process continues until you reach an agreement. Both of you can increase your chances of success by giving proposals that you think the other person might agree to.
  2. Make a proposal for what you could do about your frustrating issue.
  3. Your partner either agrees (which means you’ve completed the exercise) or makes an alternative proposal (which means it’s your turn to agree or propose).
  4. Keep taking turns until you come up with a proposal that you can both agree on.
  5. Debrief together: What did you learn from this exercise? What worked well? What could have gone better?

Repeat the exercise multiple times, alternating who goes first. Practice with relatively simple, low-stakes topics before tackling any issues that bring up strong emotions.

Online Exercises Main Menu