The art of complaining is a rather doubled-edged sword. How do we raise our voices effectively to get what we want without being intimidating, or annoying, like Lisa Simpson?
Amy Fish career
Montreal writer Amy Fish has practically made a career out of complaining. She works as the ombudsman (aka “Chief Complaints Officer”) at Concordia University; she has written about the subject for a number of publications and websites; has appeared as a complaint expert for CBC’s “Marketplace” and the CTV National News; has her own complaining blog on Blogspot ; and has taught numerous classes and workshops on how to complain effectively.
And now, Ms. Fish has taken her expansive knowledge and expertise on complaining and how to complain effectively to the next level, with the publication of her first book I Wanted Fries With That(New World Library, $15.95). The book will be officially launched in Montreal at a special event on October 17, 7 p.m., at the Jewish Public Library, located at 5151 Cote St. Catherine Road, in association with Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore.
Ms. Fish’s epiphany-like moment that started her on the road to effective complaining happened when she was 14 years old. She and a group of friends went to a restaurant for lunch, and she asked her friend Julie that she wanted an order of fries for lunch (Julie was taking down all of the food orders and going to the counter to place the order for all the requests). Several minutes later, the food arrived, except the fries. Julie’s excuse for the absence of fries? “Well, like, I went up and ordered them? … But, um, I’m not sure if they heard me.”
“It was then that I realized a lot of people should use their voice and ask for things, and that forever stuck in the back of my mind,” said Ms. Fish during a recent phone interview.
The book is a collection of instances where effective complaining can work for you in three categories: getting what you want, initiating personal change, and getting a sense of justice served. And instead of using a psychological or sociological approach, Ms. Fish uses a more realistic approach, as she draws upon a series of personal experiences instead, whether it be getting an appliance repaired, registering for a sold-out event, getting your guests to arrive on time for a dinner party, getting that deserved break at your workplace, and going on a successful quest for an elusive Unicorn Frappacino at your local Starbucks.
“The basic theory about effective complaining is that people don’t know how to complain without ruffling some feathers,” she said. “My intention to use personal examples in the book is that they resonate with the reader; they are things that not only happened to me, but happened to all of us.”
As well, Ms. Fish has two main rules that anyone can follow towards starting your journey to effective complaining. “Number one is that things are not perfect, so try complaining, because being quiet never works, so ask for what you want. At least you will have a shot,” she said. “Number two is if you have a voice that is a little thing, make it a big thing. Practice speaking out if you want justice to be served.”
Meet complain expert Author Amy Fish
Tickets for Ms. Fish’s October 17 appearance at the Jewish Public Library are free, with a purchase or pre-purchase of her book I Wanted Fries With That.