Use Humour To Make A Complaint More Effective

Use Humour To Make A Complaint More Effective

When you’re complaining about bad service, it’s easy to get frustrated with what usually ends up being less-than-helpful responses. Psychology Today points out that humour is a great defence that can help you with your argument, provided you do it right.

Picture: Britta Frahm/Flickr

Using humour when you’re complaining is all about striking the right tone and taking the edge off the complaint so it’s easy for the recipient to swallow. To that end, Psychology Today suggests a few ground rules:

1. If our humour is too heavy handed, our complaint won’t be taken seriously.

2. If our humour is too offensive it can make the recipient even more defensive than they would have been if we just told it to them ‘straight’. The line between funny and offensive is not only thin it is also subjective. What some people consider funny, others might find insulting.

3. If our underlying tone is too condescending, angry or sarcastic it will cancel out the ‘funny’ and we are unlikely to get the result we want.

4. The biggest danger we face when using humour to complain is that our efforts might come across as simply — not funny.

Stand-up comics have been doing this for years, but inserting a joke in your complaint delivery can turn a potentially uncomfortable situation into something a little more pleasant. Just remember not to be a jerk about it. Head over to Psychology Today for a few different examples of how (and how not to) use humour when complaining.

Does Humor Make A Complaint More Effective? [Psychology Today]


  • Absolutely agree. Also praise where it’s due.

    The garbage men outside of our house were in the habit of leaving the bins everywhere. I sent something like the following.
    “I appreciate that our garbage blokes do a good job, they come rain or shine and are friendly. I also appreciate that they’re in a hurry, but each week the pavement looks like a tornado has been through. If there’s one place that you can guarantee that your bin isn’t, it’s the nearest one to your house. They are strewn all over the pavement up and down the road and the old folk nearby not only get confused as to what is theirs, they struggle to get past on the pavement (as do people with prams) but also tracking their bin down. Now I don’t expect to see our bins lined up like little soldiers with wheels, but given that they come down around 9.30am when everyone has left for work, if perhaps they could take a little more care in where they leave the bins (not blocking the paths, for instance) then it would be much appreciated.

    Now I hate to be *that person that complains about the bins* but I also hate to be *that crazy person in the neighbourhood who goes down the street every wednesday moving everyone’s bins so people can use the pavement*”

    I got a reply saying my email was funny and fair, they’d actually stuck it on the noticeboard at the depot, and the bins have since been noticeably tidier. Result!

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