Speaking only of what I know, I can state unequivocally that most people in my experience cannot complain properly.
Last night, it was my pleasure and my joy to chair a meeting (of a non-ecclesiastical nature) which was characterised by poor complaining. We in Britain just do not know how to complain properly. Simple fact. It is not a secular affliction either - for it certainly exists in Godly circles too.
- A man telephoned my emporium in London in response to a message that I left informing him that his mattress would be delayed by a day. He suggested that it would have been better had I too been in the World Trade Centre (for this was the day after 9/11)
- A man, upon hearing that his carpet would not be lovingly fitted to his spare bedroom on account of the recent snowfall offered to visit me with a baseball bat unless I hand delivered his nylon purchase in person.
- A woman in a fast-food outlet, upon the painful discovery that she had been given a curry sauce instead of ketchup, suggested that the poor assistant return from whence he came - in a way that led me to suggest that he was intended to take a considerable overseas journey.
These are a few of a very very very long list that I could offer after fifteen years retailing. I have been called "stupid", "an idiot" - simply because a lorry had broken down on a motorway somewhere. Brits cannot complain (I cannot speak for other nations). Incidentally, let it also be said that the customer is not always right, but is certainly rude from time to time.
In church life, it is probably worse, because you don't get to hear of the complaint first hand or at the time. It is quite usual to hear a complaint 64 years afterwards, and eighty-sixth hand. In church life, a complaint is broadly made manifest by way of pout or that vile passive-aggressive stuff that I personally hate with some considerable passion.
We can't complain well because we hate to be confrontational, and because we hate to be confrontational we overdo the rhetoric. We don't state our complaint, we wrap it up in a thick layer of value-statements, and quite often personalised comments made purely to cause injury to the recipient of the complaint. If it isn't passive-aggression it is over-aggression, and rarely anything in-between.
I have wondered what the solution is. Partly, I think that we need not fear speaking our mind, so long as we are just stating what we feel and what we know (and not to add interpretations and unfounded opinion). Perspective is also important. Very often we lose perspective when complaining, and over-egg the pudding. Generally, a complaint accompanies a desire for a change in process or a more aggreable and appropriate outcome. Insulting the shop-assistant won't help that at all. Stating the issue soonest, as opposed to letting things fester over weeks or longer is always best. Then say it simply, not explode - people recoil and retreat in the face of explosions.
I think that what we tend to forget is that the person to whom we complain is, even with all due cynicism and realism, minded to want to help us or to work through the issue. We complain badly because we overlook that fact, instead replacing it is bile and shouting. Simply put, when you insult someone, they will stop caring what you think and will therefore not care to help a jot more.
(and in my experience across 20 years, Christians are the worst offenders - and two of the examples given above we from the mouths of those who I later discovered or already knew to be church-goers)