Putting the brakes on when someone drives you crazy


April 02, 1991|By Babara Turk

Someone else's behavior -- a habit -- is bothering you. You want to discuss it, get some things changed, but you don't know how to go about it. You don't want to make the situation worse or cause problems in the relationship. Maybe you'd best leave things along. Maybe time will make the problem go away.

That's like saying not reporting your income will make taxes go away. It won't. And, like paying taxes, handling problems when the need arises is the best way to take care of them.

How do you go about it?

By making a communications game plan that deals with what, how, when, where and why:

*What do you want to say? To clarify your thoughts, write down the basic (and only the basic) issue that's causing you a problem. ("I want him to stop being late.")

*How should you say things? By personalizing. Rather than attacking the person's behavior -- "You tick me off when you're late, you're so inconsiderate" -- state how his behavior affects you. Try, "I get ticked off when I have to stand and wait, it feels like my time doesn't matter." Personalizing your message keeps his defensive reactions to a minimum and encourages him to listen to you.

*When should you have the discussion? When you're feeling up vs. when you're tired or stressed. And, when you think the other person is likely to be most receptive vs. being busy or preoccupied. Setting a time to talk -- "I want to talk something over with you, how's later today?" -- calls attention to the fact that this is important to you.

*Where should you meet? In a quiet place (without phone interruptions or rock radio) that's in scale with two people (not the cafeteria in off-hours). A benign, neutral environment that allows for concentration will help your communication.

*Why are you bringing up the issue? Let the person know that it's not only because his behavior bugs you, but also because the relationship is important to you and you don't want problems to exist.

And, remember, while you can't control the person's reaction to your plight, chances are, if you deal in a tactful, straightforward manner you'll get a positive response and an even better relationship in the future. --Barbara Turk

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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