We all have know unassertive leaders in organizations who just won’t confront people. The price they pay, obviously, is that the problems don’t magically go away; they suffer in martyrdom or build up feelings of resentment toward the person causing the problem. It always feels unfair in relationships when the scales remain tipped against you and in favor of the other person. Tolerating an inequitable relationship is often labeled permissiveness. And permissive leaders, like permissive parents, end up being the losers and not liking it.
Still another important reason why leaders approach the task of confronting with such trepidation is that the particular language they employ, originally learned from adults who confronted them as children, has a high probability of provoking resistance and retaliation or damaging the relationship with the person whom they confront. In Gordon Model workshops, instructors use a simple exercise and its results consistently demonstrate that when leaders confront people causing them a problem, the language of their confronting messages can be abrasive, threatening, judgmental, moralizing, condescending, sarcastic, or injurious to the self-esteem of the person confronted. Take this situation for example:
1. “Ann, let other people have their say before you make your points—don’t talk so much.” (ORDERING, DIRECTING)
2. “If you keep interrupting everyone in our meeting, Ann, you’re going to have everyone shut you out.” (WARNING, THREATENING)
3. “It is simple, common courtesy to let people finish what they say before breaking in.” (MORALIZING, PREACHING)
4. “God gave us two hears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we talk.” (TEACHING, LECTURING)
5. “Ann, next time we have a staff meeting, may I suggest you hold back until everyone makes their contribution.” (ADVISING, OFFERING SOLUTIONS)
6. “Ann, you’re really discourteous in our staff meetings.” (CRITICIZING, JUDGING)
7. “Ann, I know you’re very bright and you always have good ideas but give others a break in our discussions.” (PRAISING, BUTTERING UP)
8. “You act like a know-it-all in our meetings.” (NAME CALLING)
9. “I’m sure you can curb your habit of interrupting very easily.” (REASSURING)
10. “I think you’re using our meetings to show off your vast experience.” (ANALYZING)
11. “Why do you have to hog the discussion so much and interrupt everyone ? (PROBING, QUESTIONING)
12. “Ann, you’re going to have to do something about your shyness in our meetings—we never hear your opinions.” (SARCASM, HUMOR)
While there are many variations on these themes, leaders typically confront others with messages that fall into one of these twelve categories. Do they sound familiar? They are the 12 Communication Roadblocks created by Dr. Thomas Gordon. He would often refer to them as the “Dirty Dozen”.
So how would you confront Ann? Send me your Confrontive I-Message for Ann and I’ll offer feedback.