Last Updated Jul 28, 2009 3:12 PM EDT
No one claims that addressing a problem face-to-face is easy. But there are ways you can defuse the situation and approach nearly any issue without creating a bigger conflict.
As you may know already, I'm not a big fan of the compliment sandwich -- you know, the old "stick the negative inside two positives" approach. Happily, I've stumbled across what I consider a much better approach.
Sarita Maybin, author of If You Can't Say Something Nice, What Do You Say?, suggests you "A.I.R." it out during workplace confrontations. The nifty acronym (easy to remember, yes?) stands for awareness, impact, and request -- three simple steps to guide you through the encounter.
Step 1: Awareness. Start by assuming that other people aren't aware of the trouble their actions are causing, says Maybin. Most likely, no one has told them and they're genuinely unaware of the impact. To begin the conversation, choose an "awareness" phrase. Maybin suggests some of the following:
- "I don't know if you're aware of it..."
- Perhaps you didn't realize that..."
- "I'm sure it wasn't your intention to..."
- "I'm concerned that..."
- "I feel that..."
- "When you do/say ____ the way it affects me/the team/the office is ___."
Step 3: Request. This is where you ask -- not demand -- that the behavior change. Be clear, specific, and direct: What would you like the person to do (or not do) the next time? You should offer alternative behaviors; for instance, if someone is a chronic complainer, you might suggest they find a more positive way to express themselves, complain to the boss or someone in a position to change things, or figure out solutions, says Maybin.
Request phrases include:
- "Would you be willing to..."
- "Could you please..."
- "I would rather you..."
For more insights on confronting without conflict, read Maybin's full article about the A.I.R. approach. Or check out her book about practical solutions for getting along in the workplace.
Have any tips of your own? Share them in the comments section!