When you feel “trapped” in a difficult situation, it can be hard to know what to say or do. But, there is always a healthy way out of that dilemma. The answer comes in being polite, yet direct with the other person(s) involved.
When you are polite to someone, you show respect and gentleness. And, when you are direct, you demonstrate firmness and purpose in your answer. Maybe a couple of examples will help.
All of us get calls from telemarketers from time to time. I received one just the other day. When I answered the phone, the individual began talking rather quickly as though he had a lot to say and knew he had a limited amount of time in which to say it.
After he talked for about thirty seconds, I asked, “What was your name?” He answered that his name was Charles. That is when I put the polite/direct technique into effect.
I said, “Charles, thank you so much for taking the time to call me but, I would like you to please remove my name and my phone number from your list. Will you be able to do that for me please?”
“Sure,” he said.
I then replied, “Thank you very much,” and that was the end of the conversation. I did not hang up on him. Instead I was polite and direct.
A friend of mine was shopping for a car recently and the salesman went on and on, trying to force the sale. My friend used the polite/direct technique. He said to the salesman, “I am going to purchase a car but, it feels to me like you are being somewhat pushy. I want you to understand that I am not mad but, if you continue to push, I will get in my car and leave. I need to make this decision with peace of mind and not because you talked me into it.” The salesman immediately backed off and became almost a different person. You see, polite/direct really does work well.
Finding “balance” in this area, however, is not an easy thing to do. It seems as though there are two extremes to this technique. The first one is in being overly direct and harsh with individuals. We may think we have to “put them in their place” to insure that they not take advantage of us or run over us.
The other extreme is to be “wishy-washy” in an effort to not be offensive. We try to avoid being direct at all costs. But, by being indirect and not saying what we really would like to say, our behavior becomes “passive/aggressive” and that is always a poor choice. Neither of these two methods works very well. The first causes us to be abrasive and hurt people’s feelings and the second causes us to feel like spineless slugs, allowing other people the opportunity to run over us. Again, the polite/direct approach works best!
I have not found the practice of using the polite/direct method to come easy. In my experience, the two extremes are much easier to go to than to find balance in the middle. It is easy to speak sarcastically or harshly to someone when I am not in a peaceful frame of mind myself. And, sometimes it is easier not to say what I really mean so that I leave the door cracked for changing my mind if the situation should happen to change down the road.
If you have children, you can probably identify with this example of the passive/aggressive behavior I was talking about. Your child asks you something and because you do not feel up for the battle, instead of being polite/direct and just saying “Yes” or “No,” you end up saying, “Maybe.” Well, we all know that to a child, “Maybe” means “Ask again later because mom or dad is starting to weaken.”
Learning to be polite to people is an important skill. And, learning to be direct about how you feel and what you are thinking is essential for your own mental health and professionalism. However, it does require a little practice.
Take some time to practice this Tip. I would even encourage you to write the words “Polite Direct” on a 3 x 5 card and keep it somewhere handy. We are all on this journey called life and we will all stumble a bit along the way in an effort to be mature, healthy and emotionally well in every area of life. This technique really does work. That is why I believe it is such valuable information!
Tip: The polite/direct technique works very well.
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm
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