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The Danger Point

Someone is making comments or gestures that you find offen­

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sive. The person does it seldom enough and he or she’s subtle

enough that you’re not sure if HR or your boss can even help.

What can you do?

In these situations it’s easy to think that the offender has all

the power. It seems as if the rules of polite society make it so that

others can behave inappropriately and you end up looking like

you’re overreacting if you bring it up.

Generally speaking, a vast majority of these problems go away

if they’re privately, respectfully, and firmly discussed. Your

biggest challenge will be the respect part. If you put up with this

behavior for too long, you’ll be inclined to tell a more and more

potent Villain Story about the offender. This will jack up your



YEAH, BUT 1 95

emotions to the point that you’ll go in with guns blazing-even

if only through your body language.

The Solution

Tell the rest of the story. If you’ve tolerated the behavior for a long

time before holding the conversation, own up to it. This may help

you treat the individual like a reasonable, rational, and decent

person-even if some of his or her behavior doesn’t fit this


When you feel a measure of respect for the other person,

you’re ready to begin. After establishing a Mutual Purpose for

the exchange, STATE your path. For example:

”I’d like to talk about something that’s getting in the way of

my working with you. It’s a tough issue to bring up, but I

think it’ll help us be better teammates if I do. Is that okay?”

[Establish Mutual Purpose]

“When I walk into your office, sometimes your eyes

move up and down my body. And when I sit next to you at

a computer, sometimes you put your arm around the back

of my chair. I don’t know that you’re aware you’re doing

these things, so I thought I’d bring them up because they

send a message that makes me uncomfortable. How do you

see it?” [STATE My Path]

If you can be respectful and private but firm in this conversa­

tion, most problem behavior will stop. And remember, if the

behavior is over the line, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact HR to

ensure your rights and dignity are protected.


“YEAH, BUT . . .

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN your spouse is too sensitive? You

try to give him or her some constructive feedback, but he

or she ((‘(Je/<, “(J \ Irorrgly that you end up going to silence.”




The Danger Point

Often couples come to an unspoken agreement during the first

year or so of their marriage that affects how they communicate

for the rest of their marriage. Say one person is touchy and

can’t take feedback, or the other doesn’t give it very well. In

any case, they in effect agree to say nothing to each other. They

live in silence. Problems have to be huge before they’re dis­


The Solution

This is generally a problem of not knowing how to STATE

your path. When something bothers you, catch it early.

Contrasting can also help. “I’m not trying to blow this out of

proportion. I just want to deal with it before it gets out of

hand.” Describe the specific behaviors you’ve observed.

“When Jimmy leaves his room a mess, you use sarcasm to get

his attention. You call him a ‘pig’ and then laugh as if you

didn’t mean it.” Tentatively explain the consequences . “I don’t

think it’s having the effect you want. He doesn’t pick up on the

hint, and I’m afraid that he’s starting to resent you” (Your

story) . Encourage testing: “Do you see it differently?”

Finally, Learn to Look for signs that safety is at risk, and Make

It Safe. When you STATE things well and others become defen­

sive, refuse to conclude that the issue is impossible to discuss.

Think harder about your approach. Step out of the content, do

what it takes to make sure your partner feels safe, and then try

again to candidly STATE your view.

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