Sunday, October 24, 2010

Facing Adversity

Someone told me yesterday what Winston Churchill once said: "When you're going through hell, keep going." How wise! How many of us back down when facing adversity? I know that I would rather crawl under a rock or run and hide in the woods rather than face a difficult situation head on...sometimes. But other times call for us to rise up and walk through the fire. First we put our big toe in and it feels hot so we retract it. But then we dare to step right in because we realize that we cannot go around it, over it or under it; we just have to go through it. It is said that our challenges make us grow stronger. We never really know that until we get to the other side of the problem, do we? It involves so much faith that there's a greater plan. We just need to trust that things will and do work out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Assertiveness Skills Part II

Have you ever noticed the way a young child keeps repeating her request for something? She just keeps asking. I've heard friends say "until they wear you down." Well, that's a rather sophisticated assertiveness technique called The Broken Record. It involves calmly stating your truth over and over to the other person. I remember watching my mother apply this technique in a small dry cleaning/retail outlet when I was a little girl. She wanted to return a pair of pants she'd purchased only the week before. The owner said "No," citing store policy. My mother planted herself at his counter and began her mission: to return the pants and get her money back. Like a mantra, she repeated: "I understand it is your store policy, but I want my money back." My mother had just read the book: When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith, and she immediately put into practice the tenets of assertiveness, including other skills you might also find useful:

Self-Disclosure - sharing information about yourself, your thoughts and your feelings. 
                  I become upset when when you show up late for our meeting.

Negative Inquiry - prompting criticism from your speaker in order to use the information in your argument, to build your case.

Fogging or Negative Assertion - calmly acknowledging to your critic that there may be some truth in what she/he is saying:
                  That may be true...
   I know. I have been late picking you up the last three times...

Workable Compromise or Win-Win - when you feel that your self-respect is not at stake, you can work to achieve a solution that benefits all parties involved. However, if your self-worth is in question, there can be no compromise.

It didn't take long for that retailer to refund my mother her money because as she stood there calmly stating her truth, clients came and left. The retailer had a dissatisfied customer on his hands who was driving business away! Yeah, Mom! It was truly inspirational and impressionable to my young mind. Back then I didn't know that one day I'd be teaching assertiveness to classes and in workshops.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Giving Thanks

Post Canadian Thanksgiving and I am reminded of the beauty around me and in all that I have. I may not have everything I want, but I know that today I have everything I need. As my little family and two friends assembled around our dinner table yesterday evening for an impromptu Thanksgiving meal, we did several activities in celebration of the day. Between the turkey and the dessert, we took turns saying what we are grateful for in our lives. We each expressed gratitude for the people in our lives and the chance to share a delicious meal together. Over warm maple apple crisp and vanilla ice-cream, we did another activity involving drawing around small symbols on the page, and what these mean for the perception of self, love, security and others impacting our existence. It was a wonderful sharing!

What does Thanksgiving symbolize for you? For what do you give thanks--perhaps not only today but every day?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Effective Communication for Dealing with Difficult People

Yesterday I facilitated a workshop on Effective Communication for Dealing with Difficult People. The  group consisted of about 70 administrative support and clerical staff from across a local school board, courageous dedicated front-liners who deal with parents, students, colleagues and all manner of people in general across high school, elementary school and adult education. We talked about triggers and hot buttons and how these get pushed by difficult people.We discussed how dealing with difficult people can be draining. Then we talked about listening and assertiveness as the first line of defense when dealing with someone who is rude, sarcastic or downright hostile.

Call it bullying. Call it intimidation. Many of us sometimes face someone's aggression toward us. We cannot control the way other people react. They own their feelings--good or bad, which in and of themselves are neither right nor wrong. But, it never gives someone the right to treat us badly and with disrespect.

When our personal boundaries are crossed, our bodies alert us in terms of the resulting strong feelings we feel. This is when we need to assert ourselves. In fact, it's how we take care of ourselves and maintain our self-respect. Respect of self begets respect from others.

So here are a few tips distilled from today's session that might help you:

First, just listen…
When someone feels strong emotion, they will NOT hear anything you have to say, so start by simply listening (See my previous blog post about Active Listening).

If the angry person makes you the target of their anger, you don’t have to take it. There are ways to respond professionally.

Let the person know that you will not help or deal with them so long as they are:
·       Shouting at you
·       Being rude or sarcastic
·       Being abusive, hostile or otherwise difficult

If they persist in their behaviour:
·       Hang up the phone, or put them on hold
·       Ask them to call (or come) back
·       Tell them you will not help them if they continue to show hostility

The Non-blaming Four-part Assertion Message or "I-message"

This is the message you calmly deliver when you feel your rights have been trampled on or when you want to say something positive:
When this happens ____________________ (state an observable action that has affected you)
               I feel  ________________________(state how this action makes you feel)
               Because  _____________________ (state why it makes you feel this way)
               I need  _______________________ (tell the other person what you need in terms of tangible

* This formula works for the delivery of both positive and constructive feedback.

When you yell at me, I cannot help you because I feel stressed. I need you to calm down so that we can sort out this problem together.

Human relations requires that we constantly negotiate our boundaries. This can drain our energy and time, especially when we feel hijacked by someone else's anger. By practicing these simple techniques, you'll find yourself refusing to engage with the difficult person. In the process, you'll preserve your self-respect and command the respect you deserve.

My next blog post will explore other assertiveness skills that complement the non-blaming I-message. Come back and look for it!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I think I CAN...I think I CAN....I CAN!

It was an awesome sight: a young man getting into his van, quickly and agilely...but with no mobility in his two floppy legs! We watched, only aware that we'd been staring after he shut his door and using a hook of sorts, slid close the side door into which he'd just loaded his wheelchair. He did all this maneuvering with only the strength of his arms!

My son and I just looked at each other, eyes wide and mouths agape. We agreed that here was someone who made a complex task with many steps, look simple to perform despite his handicap. And here we are with full mobility...

This has me thinking about the ways in which we handicap ourselves with: "I can't do it." How often do we say we can't do something? Courage--the courage to try and the courage to do. First it starts with the courage to admit that yes, something may present difficulty. What a humbling experience to watch someone accomplish their goal while challenged! It might give us pause to think about our own good fortune: "For the grace of God, there goes I..."

What limits might you impose on yourself based on that negative self-talk or tape playing over and over in your head? Now tell yourself this thought by Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."