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The Solution

Learn to Look for patterns. Don’t focus exclusively on a single

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event. Watch fol’ behavior over time. Then STATE Your Path by

talking about t h(: pu1 t(:rn, Por example, if a person is late for




meetings and agrees to do better, the next conversation should

not be about tardiness. It should be about his or her failure to

keep a commitment. This is a bigger issue. It’s now about trust

and respect.

People often become far more emotional than the issue they’re

discussing warrants because they’re talking about the wrong

issue. If you’re really bothered because of a pattern, but you’re

talking about this latest instance, your emotions will seem out of

proportion. In contrast, an interesting thing happens when you

hold the right conversation. Your emotions calm down. When

you talk about what’s really eating you-the pattern-you’ll be

able to be more composed and effective.

Don’t get pulled into any one instance or your concern will

seem trivial. Talk about the overall pattern.


“YEAH, BUT . . .

IVE BEEN TOLD THAT I should never go to bed angry. Is

that always a good idea?”

The Danger Point

Once you’ve become angry, it’s not always easy to calm down.

You’ve told yourself an ugly story, your body has responded by

preparing for a fight, and now you’re trying your best not to

duke it out-only your body hasn’t caught up with your brain.

So what do you do? Do you try to stay in dialogue even though

your intuition tells you to back off and buy some time? After all,

Mom said, “Never go to bed angry.”

The Solution

Okay, so your mom wasn’t exactly right. She was right by sug­

gesting that you shouldn’t let serious problems go unresolved.




She was wrong about always sticking with a discussion, no mat­

ter your emotional state. It’s perfectly okay to suggest that you

need some time alone and that you’d like to pick up the discus­

sion later on-say, tomorrow. Then, after you’ve dissipated the

adrenaline and have had time to think about the issues, hold the

conversation. Coming to mutual agreement to take a time-out is

not the same thing as going to silence. In fact, it’s a very healthy

example of dialogue.

As a sidenote on this topic, it’s not such a good idea to tell oth­

ers that they need to calm down or that they need to take some

time out. They may need the time, but it’s hard to suggest it with­

out coming off as patronizing. “Take ten minutes, calm down,

and then get back to me.” With others, get back to the source of

their anger. Retrace their Path to Action.


“YEAH, BUT .. .

MY TEENAGE SON is a master of excuses. I talk to him

about a problem, and he’s always got a new reason

why it’s not his fault. ”

The Danger Point

It’s easy to be lulled into a series of never-ending excuses-par­

ticularly if the other person doesn’t want to do what you’ve

asked and learns that as long as he or she can give you a plausi­

ble reason, all bets are off.

“I go to work before my son leaves for school, and he’s con­

stantly late. First he told me that he was late because his

alarm broke. The next day the old car we bought him had

a problem-or so he says. Then his friend forgot to pick

him up. Then he had a hl!ad cold and couldn’t hear his new

a I” 1’1ll . Thl!11 . . . ”




The Solution

With “imaginative” people, take a preemptive strike against all new

excuses. Gain a commitment to solve the overall problem, not sim­

ply the stated cause. For instance, the first time the person is late,

seek a commitment to fix the alarm-and anything else that might

stand in the way. Repairing the alarm only deals with one potential

cause. Ask the person to deal with the problem-being late.

“So you think that if you get a new alarm, you’ll be able to

make it to school on time? That’s fine with me. Do what­

ever it takes to get there on time. Can I count on you being

there tomorrow at eight o’clock sharp?”

Then remember, as the excuses accumulate, don’t talk about the

most recent excuse; talk about the pattern.

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