This is the question I’ve been asking myself lately. Why? Because I’m in the “middle” of negotiating a lease for my new Midwest Mind Body Health Center which opens Oct. 1, and I’ve been in the “middle” for the past 8 weeks.
When I first saw the building, I asked the owner to deal with me directly but he said he’d hired a real estate broker and it’d be better to speak with him. Would a man have agreed to this? I don’t know, but I did to “be nice.” What’s happened since then? Not much. The broker has been on vacation twice, doesn’t answer morning calls, isn’t much better later in the day, and took 10 days to get me the draft of my lease even after I decided to take a bigger space in a building that’s only half-full.
Not a great way to run a business especially in a real estate market that’s glutted. Then yesterday I decided I’d had enough and called the owner who seemed “clueless” that his broker was handling our deal like this. I told him I’d tried to respect his request that I work with the broker but I’d had enough. How soon would a man have done this? Probably much sooner. Certainly a man wouldn’t have been “nice” about it when the broker wasn’t doing his job.
Although I was raised to be a “nice girl,” I was also brought up to respect myself. While I know the broker is not intentionally disrespecting my time and need to wrap things up, I’m done waiting for him. Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different solution.” So, Monday I’ll be phoning and e-mailing the owner again to get my lease settled. If the broker ends up with mud on his face, he’s earned it.
What are your thoughts about this? What would you do? How long would you “be nice.” Let us know.
Here are the final four steps in assertive communication. Hopefully, these will help with both speaking up and listening.
- Provide clarification. If the receiver doesn’t understand what you’re saying, clarify it. However, just because you say things clearly, doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll be heard. If problems persist, make certain that you’re communicating openly and non-defensively and suggest resuming the conversation later if you want.
- Create a new opportunity. As long as we’re alive, we can have a follow-up or “recovery conversation” when we’re not satisfied with a prior outcome. First, all parties must agree to this. Next, remember that each person is responsible for approaching the “recovery” conversation in an open-minded, non-defensive way intending to listen and be heard. With this goal, everyone wins.
- Ending the conversation. If the other person becomes attacking or abusive, it’s time to stop. If you want, you can offer to have a “recovery conversation” later. Whatever the choice, it’s yours. Being assertive doesn’t mean tolerating abusive behavior or language. It does mean standing up for yourself and setting limits.
- Be clear about your intentions. Assertivenes requires admitting to yourself whether you’re genuinely interested in open and honest communication or proving you’re right and other self-serving motives. If intentions aren’t aligned with what’s best for the relationship , you won’t succeed. When aligned, there are limitless possibilities for positive results.
Next week we’ll be discussing the new 7-week self-care challenge starting March 21. If you participated in our October 21-day self-care challenge, we’d appreciate your comments and ideas on how to improve your experience.
Last week, we posted the first three aspects of assertive communication: 1)speak openly, honestly and directly; 2)state thoughts and feelings without becoming defensive; and 3)be courteous and respectful. Here are the next four steps.
- Exercise timing. Discuss important matters at a time which is good for all involved. Discussions late at night when your partner’s tired or first thing in the morning before they’re fully awake, is not recommended. Make certain you each have the attention and energy for a constructive conversation.
- Make clear requests. If there’s something you want, ask for it. Don’t expect others to read your mind. Relationship problems often occur when we don’t take responsibility for expressing our needs. Real intimacy is being able to say what’s on your mind.
- Speak from your heart. Make your intention to have a “confiding” conversation even if you feel angry or hurt. Use “I” statements like “I felt angry when I thought you weren’t listening.” Don’t blame or demean the other person. This sets the tone for them to do the same. Whatever they do, practice assertive communication.
- Provide clarification. If the receiver doesn’t understand what’s said, offer clarification or restate it. However, even when things are stated clearly, it doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll be heard. Each of us filters what we hear through the lens with which we see the world.
While the goal of assertive communication is to better understand each other, its success is not gaurunteed. Still, it is up to us to create the opportunity for this to occur by communicating assertively.
In my grandmother’s generation, “children were to be seen but not heard.” Only parents/adults deserved respect. Next, parents learned to “listen so their children/teens would talk,” but still expected respect from them. Today, it seems that many children and teens openly disrespect their parents, and we allow it.
What’s happened? When did we start worrying more about our children’s love and approval than teaching them to be considerate and thoughtful? A few months ago one mom told me that she was so hurt by her three year-old yelling at her “I hate you,” she collapsed in a puddle on the floor. Another mom related how her 10 year-old screamed at her for opening the room to her door without knocking so she apologized. The problem is not that these situations occur, but that we don’t assert ourselves and use reasonable consequences because we’re afraid of how our children will respond.
Like all moms, I know how hard it is to speak up and enforce limits. But I learned that although I felt bad , it was more it was more important to teach my daughters RESPECT than be their friend or fear their disapproval. I treated them respectfully and expected the same.
When my younger daughter yelled at me, I warned her once and sent her to her room. When my older daughter wouldn’t listen, we didn’t go to the mall that day. While they didn’t like it then, now they value respect, consideration and courtesy in their relationships. We joke about my younger daughter running from me saying, “No more consequences.”
SPEAK UP. It works.
Last Wednesday Susan from Working Moms Against Guilt posted about having difficult conversations with loved ones instead of an uncensored “snarkfest” brought on by repeatedly withdrawing from confrontation. Sound familiar? Most of my female friends and clients describe struggling with this because “nice girls” don’t make waves and depend on approval to feel good.
This week, I’m offering some guidelines for assertive not aggressive communication to help with this challenging practice. Remember, it’s important to be open and direct about both positive and negative emotions because love and praise often go unspoken too.
- Be assertive. Speak openly, honestly and directly. Don’t be passive: beat around the bush, shut down, stop listening or withdraw. Don’t be aggressive: yell, blame, belittle the other person or fight to be right. Express yourself fully and listen openly to what the other has to say.
- State your thoughts and feelings openly, honestly, and clearly. If you perceive the other person is not understanding what you are saying, try again. Remain calm, centered and non-defensive. Help them lower their guard so they can hear you fully and accurately.
- Be courteous and respectful. Pay attention. Stop doing other things (TV, computer, etc). Make eye contact. If you disagree with what they say or their perception of what you’ve said, let them know openly and directly but don’t attack them. Give and expect respect.
These suggestions foster open, honest, assertive communication. They set the tone for a win-win situation. Practice with someone you trust first. Next week, Part 2 of what to do.