Helena Cornelius and Shoshana Faire with Estella Cornelius, Simon & Schuster (Australia) 2006
From Appropriate Assertiveness pp. 76 – 79
Reactive or proactive
People who are experienced in assertiveness repeatedly use proactive rather than reactive language. They are careful about how they address the issues they are raising and they are constantly reframing their own reactive thinking and language. That’s why they sound respectful. That’s why it’s hard to challenge what they say. Their conversations head towards positive outcomes. It’s how assertive people get their leading edge!
The examples below show how proactive ways of saying things can create different conversations.
|Reactive || Proactive |
‘They didn’t get the information to me on time.’
‘You’ve misinterpreted what I said.’
|Take responsibility: |
‘I need to find a way to ensure I get the information on time.’
‘I need to explain this more clearly.
Say how it is for you, not the other person.
You’re always late.’
‘When you constantly change the TV channels while we’re watching…
| Be specific: |
‘I saw you come in after the start of the last three team meetings.’
‘When you change channels three times during the same show……
Avoid ‘always’ ‘never’ ‘keep ’
| Emotive: |
‘You humiliated me …’ or ‘You ignored me.’
| Objective: |
‘When you left the room while I was still talking to you…’
Describe the specific behaviour.
Don’t assume you know their motives or attitudes.
| Judge: |
‘This report is unprofessional.’
| Describe: |
‘This report has no charts or statistics.’
| Criticise: |
‘Your spelling is terrible!’
|Your telephone manner is hopeless!’|
‘Would you consider turning on the spell checker in your computer?’
‘Would you feel OK asking each caller how you can help them?’
Focus on what the person can change.
| Demand: |
‘You’ll have to…’
‘Stop being a pest!’
| Invite: |
‘How would it be if you were to…? ’
‘Would you be able to…
(e.g. find something else to do until I’m finished?)’
Invite behaviour you do want. Don’t dwell on what you don’t want. Ask for their response to what you have said.
| Negative: |
‘I don’t want to go.’
‘I can’t see you until 3pm.’
| Positive: |
‘I do want to put in a phone call.’
‘I can see you at 3pm.’
Say what you can do, rather than what you can’t.
| Opposition: |
‘I like that idea but it is expensive.’
“You can’t do that. John would be offended’
| Inclusion: |
‘I like that idea and I’m concerned that it is expensive.’
‘We must consider, in any solution we come up with, that John must not be offended.’
Include the opposite point of view as part of the total scene you’re working on.
| Problems: |
‘This filing is a terrible problem.’
| Issues, challenges, opportunities: |
‘The filing is an issue. Let’s design a better filing system.’
Reframing a problem as an opportunity or a challenge makes it into something you can work on.
| Past: |
‘I’ve told you a thousand times…’
‘From now on…’
Look where you can make changes, rather than dwell on what was wrong in the past.
Catch yourself using reactive language. At first you’ll have to think about how to reframe it. After a while it comes naturally.
From Cooperative Power pp.108 – 109
Stepping Out of the Rescuing Role
Helping another person in trouble is part of our humanness. It’s a wonderful quality and should be encouraged; however, there are times when being compassionate can be misplaced. Others might take advantage of your caring involvement, and wear you down. You might so identify with the role of carer/fixer that you’ll care and fix even where it’s inappropriate. Do you have a tendency to repeatedly slip into Rescuing, too often putting your needs aside for others?
EXERCISE: spot inappropriate rescuing
Think of someone in your life you are possibly rescuing. Check it out:
Have they actually asked for my help? ………………………………………..
Who’s need is this really?
Mine or theirs? ………………………………………..
What needs of mine am I putting aside? ………………………………………..
Is the other person more focused on the
problem than the solution? ………………………………………..
How much time do I want to give this? ………………………………………..
What are my boundaries around
Insofar as possible, analyse your own motives. Try not to muddy your support with your own need to be needed. Don’t overdo it. Don’t disempower the other person. If it’s starting to hurt you, it’s a sign to pull back. Respect that. Try not to hurt the other person as you do so. Get some support for yourself if you must often be in a caring role. If you can trust yourself to monitor how much support you give others, then you really can let it be a wholehearted expression of your caring and love.
From Introduction to Mediation p. 225
A modern fable
A desert sheik died bequeathing his nineteen camels to his three sons, leaving
his first son half his camels,
his second son a quarter of his camels
and his third son a fifth of his camels.
As it isn’t economical to carve up camels the three sons invited a mediator who arrived on his camel. The mediator assessed the situation and lent this camel to the estate. There were now twenty camels.
The first son received his half (ten camels),
the second son his quarter (five camels)
and the third son his fifth (four camels).
This added up to the nineteen camels left in the estate, leaving the mediator with the camel he came with. He mounted it and rode away. Had you been the mediator would you have felt that justice was done? Or would you have asked awkward questions like: ‘What about the sheik’s daughters…?’
From Negotiation pp, 199 – 200
1. Centre, Flow, Make Contact
Centring is a great way to calm your anxiety. Don’t forget to breathe deeply into your belly. You may want to deliberately calm and deepen your breathing pattern. Use the image of flow to remind yourself how you want your energy to move throughout the negotiation. Don’t contract; make contact. Fill the relationship ‘space’ with the energy of your attention. You will need to monitor yourself frequently to make sure you stay out of reaction. (See Chapter 1, Responding to Conflict, for more on these issues).
2. Set up a Climate of Agreement
Focus on the process before the content. Make some agreements on how to do the negotiation, plan when you are both free to talk, how much time is available and where you will meet. Set up a collaborative approach with a statement such as, ‘Let’s work toward something that will suit both of us’. Remember, in a truly successful negotiation everyone wins. Start to build trust. How will you build rapport? Consider the empathy openers in Chapter 3, Empathy, particularly when negotiating with the people-focused Influencing and Stabilising behavioural styles.
3. Stay in Discovery Mode
Be open to learning something new or seeing a different approach. Be patient. Use active listening. Listen – for what’s missing, not said or implied. Look out for what makes you or them uncomfortable. Listen for feelings behind the words and observe the tone of voice. Listen to how it is for the other side. Tell them how it is for you.
From Broadening Perspectives p. 231
Find the Path with Heart
To stand up for what you want, you need to inject ‘heart’ into a situation. You need to peel back the layers of your demand for change to locate a deeper level of compassion than you have brought so far to the situation. Trying to build empathy by active listening and other methods may not help when you’re stretched to your limit. On the mountaintop there is another level of empathy to consider. Firstly, you can notice if you have closed off to the other person energetically. Have you contracted in your chest (around your heart) to protect yourself? When you’re angry, or you dislike someone intensely, or they have hurt you, it is very natural to do this. Your emotional state can drive you into such a tightness that you can’t find any way forward. From a place beyond emotions and contraction, you can summon compassion that you can feel towards all beings – particularly those in pain. Notice their pain and fears, even if well hidden. Sense the damage that past hurts, mental imbalance or limited life opportunities must have caused them. Let a little compassionate energy flow towards them. Do it because it serves you – it may also serve to ease the conflict.
Choosing the path with heart is always the wise choice. Focus on putting heart into even your most difficult interactions and hold to it no matter what happen. Try never to fall out of integrity with that part of yourself. It doesn’t mean letting your teenage son get away with stealing or drug-taking, or your boss getting away with sexual harassment. The path with heart can crack down like a ton of bricks if that’s what’s needed. No matter what they’ve done, no matter what punishment they deserve or that you might impose, you can wish them, in their essence, well. If you must be tough, be tough with heart, not without it. Remember to include equally compassion for yourself as well.
From Introduction (pp xvi – xvii)
Here’s a brief run-down of the tools in the toolkit and the questions the book is answering:
Chapter 1 Responding to conflict
How can I respond, not react?
What opportunities can this situation bring?
Chapter 2 Partners not Opponents
How can we solve this as partners rather than opponents?
What needs underlie our positions on this issue?
Chapter 3 Empathy
How can I open up the communication?
What are they trying to say?
What can I do to let go of my judgements about
their personal style or differing values?
Chapter 4 Appropriate Assertiveness
How can I express myself so that I’m more likely to be heard?
Chapter 5 Co-operative Power
What will steer us to use power ‘with’ rather than power over each other?
Chapter 6 Managing Emotions
What messages are my emotions delivering to me?
How can I use these messages for positive change?
How will I best manage my own and other people’s strong emotions?
Chapter 7 Willingness to Resolve
Am I ready to move beyond personal issues towards forgiveness?
What feelings or issues do I need to release?
Chapter 8 Mapping the Conflict
Would a map of needs and fears give us greater clarity?
Chapter 9 Designing Options
Can we explore creative options together?
Chapter 10 Negotiation
How will I be hard on the problem and considerate of others and their needs?
How can we make the best deal possible that is fair for both of us?
Chapter 11 Introduction to Mediation
Can I make a skilful mediating intervention here?
How could I help the process and stay neutral?
Chapter 12 Broadening Perspectives
Can I put this issue into perspective?
Am I including my ‘heart’ as well as my intellect?
The questions above can become your Conflict Toolkit to use at any time you have a conflict or a challenge. The toolkit is also a great starting point for documents and speeches you want to offer in conflict resolving mode.