Dear style & substance:
I have had the strangest related incidents happen recently and am at a loss as to how to politely deal with them. My neighbor’s dog comes into my yard regularly and relieves himself, which I obviously don’t like and another ‘neighbor’ at work eats hot, aromatic lunches at her desk, right next to mine, when I am trying to meet with clients. These may seem different to you, but I cannot bring myself to speak up. Any suggestions?
You are very tolerant and in tune with your weakness! Some people take advantage of that and others simply don’t understand basic rules of etiquette. Working on your frustration without tactfully addressing the situations could be quite futile, as you have already reached your tipping point. Any reader can sympathize with this, as we all have life situations and people that we have put up with rather than attempt to communicate our dissatisfaction. Coming up with the right words and then being prepared to deliver them when the right time presents itself is what will ultimately work best.
Some things to remember in your delivery:
• Don’t show emotion; be calm, direct and matter-of-fact.
• ‘Know’ the people you are trying to communicate with as personality types and realize that they will receive words and respond differently than you might in a situation.
• If there are rules at your office; use them to kindly remind your desk mate that there is a lunchroom etiquette to be followed; especially when clients are present - being seen eating is not professional.
• Tell them how it effects YOU over telling what THEY should do or what THEY should feel; “I want to be as professional as possible and I am very distracted by your lunch habits when I am trying to meet with clients.” or “I have stepped in Fido’s droppings so many times when I am mowing my lawn that I am frustrated and wondering if you might start picking them up?” When you own your own feelings and are not attacking or pinning them on the offender, they are more likely to heard and understood.
• Try to deal with the problem sooner rather than later. Allow time for emotions to ebb then you will be in a position to communicate without attacking the other person. Allowing a situation to go unaddressed for too long will only build your frustration, find that “sweet spot” of calm communication.
Whenever we are frustrated or annoyed by someone’s behavior it is best to try to separate out the specific issue or issues that are annoying. For instance; what might be the current offense is getting tangled up with the last time they offended you or behaved rudely, which could be often. Some people are more difficult to get along with than others. If your tactful attempts to remedy the situations fail, you may need to speak to someone beyond them, such as a boss or another family member in the house next door.
If direct communication has not worked, have a plan B to fall back to; such as using a conference room when the hot lunch foils your client meetings, or nicely place the “doggie bags” by your neighbor’s driveway. In this way, you are actually solving your own problem and not relying on what we think should be a natural courtesy of others.
Remember, taking a broad view of any situation can help you gain perspective. Sometimes, our frustrations are minor within the scope of the relationship. Ask yourself, can I live comfortably if this issue continues? Are there aspects of this relationship that bring me joy? How far am I willing to go to get what I need?
Seeking resolution rather than pursuing being right can ultimately lead to more happiness for you as well as more confidence in yourself and your ability to solve problems.
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