Many of us are uncomfortable around confrontation. Some avoid it at all costs while others pass it off to somebody else; or if you are like me you face it head on with butterflies in your belly, a quiver in your normally strong voice, and an ongoing internal play-by-play about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.
As a psychotherapist, I teach countless adults how to set clear boundaries and ask for what they need and want. This theme of identifying what we need and then going on to ask for it is a struggle for even the heartiest of souls. It trickles into how we interact in the workplace, who we create friendships with, and how we run our households.
- The first step to getting what we need from others is to get comfortable asking for it. I recommend writing it down, taking some time away, and then going back to it. This creates some emotional distance and lends itself to us being more neutral.
- Write it down in a bulleted style, so that each rule is clear and separate from the others.
- Request a meeting to discuss it. Never try to establish rules on the heels of an angry or emotional exchange. This is never conducive to being heard.
- If you are unsure of yourself, practice ahead of time. Read each one out loud to yourself in front of the mirror. This will help you feel more prepared.
- Have rules for explaining your rules. For example, ask the person who is listening to wait until each one has been read and explained before asking questions. Set a time frame for the rules discussion (“this meeting will be 30 minutes long so we will not have time to discuss anything else at this time.”)
Remember, the more prepared you feel, the more comfortable you will be. Sitting down together on common ground (and not in the heat of the moment) is often the best way to address needs that may elicit resistance or discomfort.
If you are addressing somebody from a different culture, remember that when we are emotional we tend to deal with emotional upset within the norms of our home country as well as that of our natural families. What may be offensive in our culture may be perfectly appropriate in another. While it may be tempting, do not back pedal, even if cultural differences become a factor. Stay firm and clear in your intention, and precise in your preparation and execution. Within the setting of a meeting, refer to your written words. Check in after each point, by welcoming any questions or need for clarification. If you become frustrated reset yourself and continue to move forward. Establish the fact that a rule is a rule and not a point of negotiation.
Lisa Bravo, MC, LPC, LISAC, NCC
Cultural Care Au Pair Program Counselor