How can you tell the difference between a complaint and a complainer? At first blush, it would seem the two are inextricably linked. After all, isn't a complainer someone who makes complaints?
The answer is yes and that's how you tell the two apart.
A complainer is someone who chronically complains. For example: the pool is too hot, too cold, too wet, too noisy, too large, too small, too deep, too shallow, too something. And it's rarely just the pool, but everything the complainer comes in contact with. And they love to vocalize their dissatisfaction.
A complaint can and does come from a complainer, but a legitimate complaint is a concern by a member, guest, client or customer. They can range from constructive criticism--"I was wondering if your facility might be able to buy some more free weights" or "I don't see any yoga on the class schedule. Could you schedule a regular yoga class a few mornings a week?"
Or they can be informative, letting you know something isn't functioning properly or a staff member isn't performing optimally--"Did you know that treadmill #4 isn't working?" or "The ten o'clock instructor is always late."
They can also be passionately unsatisfied, yet factual--"The women's restroom has been filthy for a week. When are you going to do something about it?" or "Please fix the leg curl machine; it's been broken for a month!"
A complainer usually begins their complaint with the words, "I don't like" and very often the word "too" is used in their complaint--"I don't like your pool. It's too small." or "I don't like the beginner class, it's too easy." or "I don't like your facility, it's too far from where I live." Chronic complainers love to spread their misery with chronic complaints for which there is usually no solution other than that they find a new class or facility to join or a new personal trainer to hire. In the examples above, there is no fix for their complaint.
Then there are also complainers who like to make subjective statements that are beyond their expertise. For example, a group fitness participant may complain that a new instructor is terrible, yet the fitness director knows from the instructor's credentials, audition and job performance that they're actually an excellent instructor. This is one of those complaints where the complainer is really upset about change and not the instructor's actual ability.
Don't take complainers personally, but do listen to them with compassion. Offer suggestions to counter their complaint and then let the complaint go emotionally. For example: the easy beginner class--suggest another class the complainer might want to attend that would be more in line with the intensity they desire. If alternative suggestions don't curb your complainer's complaints, politely let them know that you hope they find another class, pool, facility, etc, that meets their needs.
Remember, it's your job to provide sound classes and/or a clean facility with courteous staff and properly functioning equipment, but it's not your responsibility to "make" people happy. Each person has to take responsibility for his/her own joy and happiness.
And knowing this will allow you to have more joy and happiness.
Lover of dance, Zumba and aquatic fitness. And Wave Webs aqua gloves.