According to the authors of the book Significa, the world’s champion complainer was a man named Ralph Charrell. Charrel received over $100,000 as a result of his systematic complaining. His smallest refund was of $6.95 and his largest was $25,000. Charrel spent time every day making phone calls and writing letters of complaint. He even wrote two books, How to Get the Upper Hand and How I Turn Ordinary Complaints into Thousands of Dollars. While we all have the right to stand up for ourselves, would you want to be known as the “World’s Champion Complainer”? Wouldn’t it be better to be the “World’s Champion Encourager”?
Before we look at the Champion Encourager, let’s explore the side of the complainer. I’m sure someone has raised the question, “Isn’t there a place for legitimate complaints?” This spring our son-in-law hired a company to pave his driveway. He clearly spelled out his expectation and the company owner gave him a price. Our son-in-law had done his due diligence and believed the price was fair in relationship to what he wanted. The job was finished, and the work was clearly substandard. Should a complaint be registered? Absolutely! Why? The quality of the work did not match the promise of the contractor. Complaining must be separated from accountability. If I give you my word, then I must be held accountable for the word that I have spoken. In fact, accountability is the foundation of trust.
Complaining that is rooted in accountability helps to raise the standard of excellence. Complaining can also be a form of whining. Whining places the focus upon me and how I have been inconvenienced, treated poorly, or mishandled. Much of our complaining falls into the category of whining. It becomes a tool for manipulating people to give us what we want.
This summer I was speaking at a Family Camp in Montana. In preparation I tried on some of my short sleeve summer shirts and found that they had shrunk while in the closet. I decided to go to the Bay and take advantage of the summer sale and get three new shirts that fit me. The lady that waited on me was very helpful and I left the store very pleased with the new purchases. However, when I was at the family camp, I discovered that the salesperson had failed to remove a magnetic detector from one of the shirts. I had a choice — would I take it back to the store and complain or removed it myself? I chose the latter. The oversight in removing the magnetic detector was miniscule in comparison to the service she rendered and the time and cost of going back to the Bay.
Let’s go to the flip side and see what might be involved in being the world’s champion encourager.
The complainer sees what’s wrong. So does the encourager. The difference is that the encourager looks for a way to fix what’s wrong. In other words, how can I leave this person, place, or property in better condition than how I found it? The complainer says, “Stop being so snoopy and mind your own business.” The encourager says, “You are a very alert person. May you have wisdom in knowing how to apply that quality in the best possible way.”
Encouragement adds breathe to life, beauty to the landscape, and boldness to our lethargy. It puts a spring in our step, a song in our spirit, and soothes our troubled soul. Encouragement is to our life what wind is to the sails of our boat.
Mr. Charrel, I have no desire to challenge your title. I would rather see one person walking with more confidence than 100,000 dollars in my bank account.
“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” (Martha Washington)
Choose the path of encouragement and I’ll see you at the top.