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Americans United: Student Affiliates

Supporting church-state separation from campus.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Voicing and Hearing Complaints

The following are some general hints and ideas for dealing with conflict (you will deal with conflict at some point!). Regardless of whether you serve as chair or are a member voicing a complaint, it's important to understand the dynamics around complaints.

Key Principles

  • People who complain are good people (really!). They just have something that doesn't work for them and they are willing to talk about it.
  • Behind every complaint is some request, which if made and fulfilled would resolve the complaint.
  • While you may not be able to satisfy their requests, it will mean a lot to them that you took the time to listen and explain why you could not do what they asked.

If You Have a Complaint

  • Find someone who can do something about your complaint, or who can at least listen to you and help determine what might resolve the issue.
  • Politely state your complaint in very specific terms.
  • Identify what and who could resolve your concern.
  • Ask that person to take the actions that would address your issue.
  • If you are unwilling to ask, stop voicing the complaint to others.

If You Are Hearing a Complaint

  • Listen to the entire complaint. Ask the person voicing the complaining "Is there anything else?"
  • If you are not clear about any part of the complaint, ask for clarification.
  • If the complaint is in general terms, ask them to be specific.
  • Once the complaint has been clearly expressed, ask them, "Do you have a request?" or "What would resolve this for you?"
  • Then respond to their requests by either accepting, making a counter-offer or conditional response, declining, or promising to let them know on a specific date.
  • If you decline, explain your reasons and check for understanding.
  • Then ask them if the complaint has been addressed or if they need something else.
  • Thank them for voicing their compliant.