Do You Have a Problem with Someone’s Behavior? Here’s Where to Begin (and Where Not To)

Before you decide to confront someone about their unacceptable behavior, there are three things to consider first:

Changing Yourself.

1. First, see if you can honestly change yourself from being unaccepting to accepting of the other’s behavior. Try to lighten up. 2. Ask yourself: “Am I just uptight and grouchy today? or is this behavior really unacceptable?”
3. If it works, there’s no need for a potentially difficult confrontation of the other.

But beware of false acceptance — pretending that their behavior is OK with you when it really isn’t — it may be easy now, but you might feel resentful later.

behavior changing influenceChanging the Environment.

Sometimes by changing the setting or changing something within it, the other person’s behavior is no longer unacceptable. For example, you wear earphones when you are working on projects to block your co-worker’s music.

Influencing the Other to Change.

To get another person to change his/her unacceptable behavior requires some kind of confrontation. There are effective ways to do that, which have a high probability of influencing the other person to change without the negative side effects usually associated with confronting.

Most confrontation is so painful that it’s usually avoided. Our traditional cultural model for confronting is blameful. We often try to get the other person to change his/her behavior with You-Messages.

You-Messages? What are those? Well, we’re glad you asked.

Let’s say I’m a supervisor and you work for me. I’m very upset because the department is overloaded with work and I see you spending time rearranging your office, cruising around Facebook and taking personal calls on your cell phone.

I have decided to confront you about this behavior NOT using Gordon Model skills, but by sending you “You-Messages”.

After you read each statement, think about how it would feel to hear this from your supervisor. Also ask whether or not, you’d feel motivated to change your behavior and how might this impact your ability to work for me (or not):

1. “Get off the phone and get to work!
2. “If you don’t start helping with the work load, you’re going to get written up.”
3. “Don’t you feel guilty letting the rest of us do all the work around here?
4. “It seems to me that since all depend on this organization’s productivity, it stands to reason that you should do your share of the work.
5. “I suggest that you do your socializing after work.
6. “You don’t pull your weight around here.
7. “When I met you, I just knew you were one of the most motivated persons I had ever met, so I’m sure you’ll consider working just a little harder.”
8. “You’re not dependable.
9. “You must have been spoiled by your mother who did everything for you. And now you expect the same from us.
10. “Did you have some special reason for rearranging your office during this peak work load?”
11. “I hope you are enjoying yourself while the rest of us are slaving away.”

All of these messages were You-Messages: critical, evaluative or demanding messages. They were not self-disclosing I-Messages.

  • You-Messages are aggressive, not assertive.
  • You-Messages are ineffective because they attack the self-esteem of the other person; they blame the other person.
  • You-Messages nearly always cause defensiveness or resistance of some sort, and often lead to arguments and fights that can damage the relationship.

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