Some people repeatedly breach people’s boundaries just because they feel it’s OK, no harm… they have “permission” to do so. It can be worse after a few drinks. There is a misplaced belief that one is entitled to speak one’s mind and show no respect for another’s behaviour, views, etc.
Perhaps you’re in a meeting and someone makes you feel uncomfortable. It starts with a comment, perhaps, that throws you a little, and is followed by an unpleasant remark accompanied by lack of eye contact (or pupils boring into yours – both signify aggression). Perhaps someone you know has a disagreeable one sentence email style that borders on hostility.
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I would not make such an audacious claim
Your approach will not win favours
You’ve got no hope in hell the way you work
Tolerance and respect is what’s called for… creating space for another person’s different outlook until their behaviour demands otherwise.
But how do you tell someone to treat you with respect? Here are four ways:
1. Don’t get emotional or vague – get your facts right.
Some successful, talented men and women ride roughshod over others’ ideas and opinions. They mean well, but are used to running their own race. Their forceful verbal skills make them formidable opponents. They have eagle eyes for what they deem “passive aggression and are quick to jump on anyone who pushes back or sulks in response.
Dealing with some adversaries can be hard, particularly if you dislike confrontation or you care about the person who is making you uncomfortable. Or maybe you care about the project you’re both working on! What to do?
Jot things down, actual facts, words, while they’re fresh in your memory (you don’t have to call out someone’s antics right away, but don’t leave it too long either). Be specific about the instances and why they cause a problem for you. Regardless of what such people say or allege when you’re experiencing confrontation, facts help you stand your ground. Bit by bit, they will begin to pay you attention. Be consistent, just as you would with a teen who repeatedly pushes your buttons.
2. Choose calm time – explain why you feel bad.
People who have been allowed to get away with poor behaviour quickly develop an egocentric view of the world they live in. Are they simply adult versions of spoiled children who throw tantrums to get their way?
Take a deep breath, look calmly but meaningfully at the other person and state your reactions to their behaviour. Try not to use “hurt feelings” cliches or poor-me body language – this can aggravate the situation. Your antagonist may call you names, disparage your abilities, pour scorn on your modus operandi. Stand your ground verbally, and as calmly as possible. Detail what their behaviour does to you, and what they can expect if they persist.
3. Be very clear – this has to change.
You’ve said this inside your head over and over, ‘THIS HAS TO CHANGE’ and perhaps to others close to you, but it has to be said to the right person at the right time. Yes, this has to change because you have an ongoing relationship! Why else would you even be raising this?
Most of us want to get on with our lives and don’t agitate for our rights. You’re raising matters because the other person has provoked you into action. You don’t want their behaviour to continue. You are requesting them politely but firmly to desist and to heed the ground you’ve marked out. Once you’ve presented your concerns and boundaries, give them time and emotional space to reconsider what they said and did. Don’t get pushed into an escalation. Be clear about what you want changed and perhaps what you’re doing to change yourself, in order to rectify the problem.
4. Acknowledge response –thank them for being open to change
Maybe they’re beginning to pay attention to your articulated requirements… at the very least they have stopped denying. You may be doing well and they have signalled willingness to alter their behaviour.
Thanking signals your appreciation and relief that your views have been recognised. Gratitude that a worthwhile outcome has been arrived at lets the other person know that you’ve noted their efforts. This is known as detente in diplomatic circles – the easing of hostility between nations. We bear witness to detente in all manner of daily negotiations; the reducing of tension shows that people have mutually progressed.
You will know when you’ve achieved detente by a shift in the other person’s attitude to you, even if it’s subtle. Just be sure that your success doesn’t make you overbearing in turn.
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace. See the rest of Eve’s blogs here.