Do you often find yourself stuck in situations where you wish you could escape someone? What do you do when someone is doing something that you don’t like?

Most of us would take the “nice guy” approach: say nothing or even convince yourself that it shouldn’t bother you. A few brave souls might take the opposite route and get aggressive: “Hey, I that’s really annoying. Cut it out!”

Honestly, neither of these paths will lead to a trusting relationship full of cooperation.

If we want to create a space in which we can both get what we want and move forward from it, you can’t suppress your frustration, but you must also approach the subject with tact.

Consider this situation: one of my clients has a thirteen-year-old son who gets incredibly worked up over his video games. He yells things at the screen and even throws things at times, to the point where it scares my client.

Should he go in there while his son is worked up and escalate the situation by adding to his rage? Should he take the Xbox away? Should he let it play itself out and see if he relaxes his actions over time?

What is the right action when you wish to approach an awkward topic (their bad behavior) in a way that gets the point across without offending them?

Step one – Take the pressure off.

As in the case of my client, he’s not going to want to broach the subject when his son is already fired up—he’ll already be primed for anger and defensiveness.

Instead of doing your negotiating on the battle ground, pick a neutral time and place in which both parties are typically relaxed and open to discussion.

Step two – Remove judgement.

Most of the time, when we get on the subject of things that bother us, we’re tempted to describe what we feel or think, rather than what’s actually happening. This leads to judgement-based observations that are skewed by our own perceptions and biases.

Rather than give your own account, open the other person up to provide theirs by framing the conversation with the words, “I notice.”

  • “I notice that you scream at the television and throw things when you’re playing video games.”
  • “I notice that you tend to keep looking at your phone when I’m talking to you.”
  • “I notice that you don’t respond to things I say when we’re participating in group discussions at work.”

By taking the issue out of the context of your own annoyance, you increase the chance that they’ll be open to discussing it with you; and by framing it with an open-ended statement, you allow the other person to fill in the gaps the way they feel most comfortable.

The trick here is to go into the conversation with patience and genuine curiosity—to enter it with something to give, rather than with something to receive.

What is the other person’s experience? What is he or she feeling in that moment? What is driving these actions?

There is no way to know what will come out of the conversation, but by remaining curious, you can guarantee better connection and trust.

If you want even more help moving forward in your confidence and social awareness goals, then visit my website, and pick up a free copy of my eBook, 5 Steps to Unleash Your Inner Confidence. This will not only help start you on the path toward more positive assertiveness in everyday conversations, but it will also help you bring greater confidence into every area of your life.

As always, I also invite you to share your thoughts and experiences below so that we can all continue to grow and learn together. What social situation could you be approaching with more assertiveness in your own life? How have the words “I notice” worked out for you? Stay curious, and you are sure to find resolution.

Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.


Dr. Aziz