How many people at work do you wish were different? And if they were different, life would be much easier, right?  

Why limit it to the workplace … let’s get real, what about family members, lovers and children too?

Stress comes in many forms, and the biggest place we experience stress is in relationships.  When the people we work and live with don’t meet our expectations, we get frustrated, angry and disappointed.  

And don’t think the feeling isn’t mutual …it is.

What if, instead of judging someone about what they do, we thought “I bet that person has a very good reason for doing what they do. I just don’t know what that reason is?”  When we don’t know their reason and I can assure they have one, we make one up.  The problem is the reason we make up, is often highly inaccurate.

What should we do?

  1. Ask them the reason why they do what they do?  Ask what their intention is.  It may seem simple but the trick is to ask from a place of curiosity,not judgment.  If we ask from judgment, believing we know best or better, they will probably get defensive. So, imagine you really don’t know (because you don’t), and get curious.  
  2. Listen to their answer.  They may not know themselves. Notice what they say. Do they get defensive? Are they aware of their behavior? Do they care that it affects you? Ask more questions so you are really clear.  This will help them get clear too.
  3. Explain as neutrally as you can how this is impacting you.  Use phrases such as…

”I notice when you (whatever they do)… I feel (emotion) …and the impact on me is ….(whatever happens to you).

Eg. I notice when you arrive late, I feel frustrated and the impact on me is I become afraid you’re not coming.  (Even if you’re really thinking “why can’t they get their act together and come on time?”)


When you check your cell phone during our conversation, I feel aggravated, and the impact on me is I get distracted from my train of thought and lose my focus.  (Even if what you’re really thinking “this person is so rude”.)

The more you can be neutral in your dialogue the more relaxed you and the other person will be. Do not come from a place of blame. Make your statements as matter of fact as you can. Once you’ve used the above statements, move forward in the conversation with the following:

  1. Make a request to get agreement on what is possible moving forward.  Use empowered statements such as “I need or I want” followed by a request. This helps the other person understand what you really want.  Eg I want you to be on time.  I need you to put your phone away during our conversations.  
  2. Make sure to get agreement.  Ask them “Will you do this?” 
  3. Be prepared to negotiate. For every request, expect a “yes, no or counteroffer”.
  4. Expect it not to work all the time.  Human beings behave from well ingrained and practiced patterns. The trick is to notice your pattern and to change YOUR behavior to create a different result that works for you.

This strategy is great for work, and home. Stating our needs, wants and expectations with our loved ones means we may not always get things to go exactly the way we want, but we can begin to slowly shift patterns and habits and improve our communication skills one conversation at a time.  

Sometimes the best course of action is just letting go.  There is only so much we can control.  

Trust that you are doing the best you can.  Trust that others can take care of themselves?  Trust yourself first and do what you can.

And know when it’s worth having the difficult conversations.  Ask yourself “how important is it?” Ask for help. Set boundaries. Communicate with those who need to know what’s going on. Don’t make the other person wrong or you right. Instead just state the facts in a way that expresses what you need. Watch, learn and always be curious.