Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

When you get angry enough, it’s common to consider having a confrontation with the person who annoys you. It’s natural to want to tell the other person off, or emotionally blurt out how they made you feel. Don’t! Often when you do that you can lose control of yourself as you rant to the person who will usually go on the defensive and not give you the response you want. I used to do that as I transitioned out of DoorMatville. I felt that in order to be empowered I had to speak my mind. So boy did I!

But in reality, I didn’t speak. I went on and on with a critical or whiny tone that put the person off. When you let your emotions take over—all the anger, frustration, disappointment, etc. that you feel because of this person—you turn communications into a confrontation. And nobody likes to hear words spoken with those emotions. Then you get more frustrated because the person makes excuses, or worse, tries to blame you for their actions. If you’re already emotional, your response may be blown way out of proportion, and then you’re even less likely to get resolution. Obviously, that kind of speaking up for yourself isn’t satisfying, or empowering. You’re never empowered when you lose control of you.

Thoughtful communication is MUCH more effective. Thinking in terms of having a confrontation gets you riled. Setting boundaries calmly while communicating a serious intention gets much better results. Most situations can be resolved with clear words spoken in a friendly manner. Nice people who finish first state their objectives, nicely, in a tone indicating they expect it. Your approach and choice of words show you mean business.

My operative words are “not appropriate” and “unacceptable.” Depending on circumstances, one or the other can get the point across. Name-calling and blame doesn’t. Nor does nastiness or accusations, even if you think the person deserves it. Include how you expect a situation to be remedied. For example, if your hotel room smells don’t go to the front desk ready for a fight. Instead of complaining and demanding another room, say, “My room is unacceptable. How soon can I move?” Presenting expectations gives no other options! For any kind of service related issue, use versions of:

•    “I’m not happy with my service. How can you make me happy?
•    “I was inconvenienced. What compensation will I get?”
•    “That’s unacceptable and I expect a quick satisfactory resolution.”

And if it’s trouble with someone on a personal level, use versions of,

•    “That was unacceptable and if you do something like that again, I’ll have to stop seeing you or it will change how we interact.”
•    “It’s inappropriate to speak to me in that tone so please don’t use it in the future.”
•    “Borrowing my things without asking is unacceptable and I expect it not to happen again.”

The key to getting your way is staying calm. Once emotions show, you’re taken less seriously. Yelling, crying or whining alienates people. Speaking slowly, in a rational, calm  but firm tone, creates advocates. Explain what you expect and thank them for their cooperation.  That shows that you’re expecting cooperation! The nicer you say it, the more people respond positively.

In the past, something would go wrong and I’d feel a battle coming. I’d attack whomever seemed responsible. On a busy day, an annoying  person interrupted with a problem she should have handled. I chewed her out and got problems from it. So I adopted nicer skills. I remind myself the person isn’t an enemy, which helps me calmly and nicely point out what is and isn’t inappropriate.

Clear, concise, unemotional communication goes a long way to resolve problems. Step back from your anger and just state what bothers you, guilt and blame free. You’re more like to get your point across in a way that the person actually hears you when you speak softly but also let them know you’re serious about what you say.

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