Let me share with you one of my most frustrating insights from 13 years in the meeting space business. Each time I receive this insight I am truly fascinated, surprised, and sometimes even a little irritated.
The temperature of a room is very important to a meeting. If it’s too warm, people get sluggish. If it’s too cold, people become uncomfortable. Both can seriously damper the productivity of a group.
I’m no HVAC technician, but I do understand that to cool down a large room, it takes a lot of cool air blowing through those vents. If there is an AC vent in a room, it will have air blowing through it. And if you sit underneath that vent, the air will likely be blowing on you. At the very least, it will be a degree or two cooler in that spot than in other parts of the room.
This means that almost every room in any house, office, restaurant, school, or, well, pretty much ANY building anywhere, will have spots that are colder and/or breezier than others. And it also means that people will inevitably sit in those spots.
So every once in a while, someone will approach me and announce that it is freezing in the room and ask if I can do anything about it. My response to them is always the same:
“Where are you sitting?”
Where do you think they point EVERY SINGLE TIME? Yep, one of the “cold spots” in the room. To which I respond in my most helpful and kind voice:
“I can certainly bump up the temperature a bit, however your seat is right underneath one of our AC vents, so it is always going to be colder there than in other parts of the room.” Then I point out an empty seat that would be much more comfortable. Just for kicks, I usually peek back in the room a few minutes later. Know what I find 99% of the time?
THEY ARE STILL SITTING IN THE SAME COLD SEAT!!!!! And they never look happy.
Which leads me to my insight:
Most people would rather complain than to change.
And I mean they would rather complain ALL DAY than take 30 seconds to move their stuff and get comfortable. I could kinda sorta understand if they can’t figure out how to fix the situation, but what really blows my mind is that some people will still complain even when someone enlightens them on the solution to their problem!
Here’s how to make sure you’re not one of those people:
1. Listen to your own complaints.
A complaint is simply a statement of a problem, often stated in a whiny or irritated tone, and often exaggerated. Using our example above, the problem of a room that is a degree or two cooler than someone is comfortable with is stated as “This room is FREEZING,” even when no snow, icicles, or any other evidence of actual freezing exists.
2. Ask yourself three questions:
“Why am I complaining about this?”
We typically complain when something negatively affects us on a personal level. People complain about a cold room for one reason only: they are cold.
“What is the outcome I really want?”
If I’m cold, I want to be warmer. If I’m confused by my boss’ vague instructions, I want clarity. If my teenage kids and their friends are talking at decibles louder than a jet engine in the back of my car, I want a volume level that won’t make my ears bleed.
“What can I do to achieve the outcome I really want?”
There are usually multiple solutions to a problem. Yes, sometimes the solution is to ask someone else to help. But way too often we overlook the simple actions we could personally take to solve the problem for ourselves. If I don’t like the temperature, I can ask someone to turn up the heat OR I can move my seat, put on a sweatshirt, or carry a small space heater with me (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it done).
The way I see it, we typically only complain about things we could actually do something about, we just don’t want to. We want someone else to fix the problem, so we complain and hope instead of changing and solving.
I know you’ve heard the quote from Mahatma Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I’m pretty sure what he meant was stop complaining, start changing.
You have a complaint, I know you do. What is it? What do you really want? And what are you going to do about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and let me know!