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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can Catch More Flies with Honey.....

Many people think that being assertive means getting your way no matter what. This is not the definition of being assertive.

In fact, being assertive means being tuned into the other person and approaching that person with a respectful comment or request in an effort to make your point or to influence the occurrence of a needed change.

If you think of the other person as someone with whom you want to join in order to effect a change, then out comes the honey. As a beekeeper, I love the expression: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar…” While apparently science experiments show that sweet balsamic vinegar will catch more flies than honey will, in our folksy sayings in this country, honey wins out.

In an assertive interaction, you use honey to effect the change by employing empathy with the other person as well as trying to imagine what he or she might want out of the situation.

Recently Atlanta had a paralysis brought about by a snowstorm followed by a period of five days or temperatures well below freezing. The snow all turned to ice within 24 hours and the city came to a standstill. We had a major snow like this in March, 1993 (known as the Storm of the Century) and in January, 1982 (known as SnowJam '82), if I remember correctly.

Atlanta is in the deep south and it is not a cost effective plan for the city to own a lot of snow removal equipment which is needed once every ten years or so.   So with resources stretched to the limits, many city streets were not cleared throughout the five days of the ice.  Angry people were interviewed on the news and I am sure people made furious, aggressive calls demanding that their street be cleared.

I am part of a huge neighborhood e-blast group and an e-blast went out early in the week, explaining how to report a street that needed scraping to the Department of Public Works.

My friend called the number given for the Department of Public Works and let them know that she imagined they were being swamped with calls for street clearing.  She probably said something like, “I imagine you all are overwhelmed with people wanting their street scraped, so I’m sure hearing from me is an echo of many calls you’ve already had.  It must be difficult to talk to so many frustrated people.” 

After listening to my friend, the person on the other end would have felt like my friend connected with him/her and understood the frustration brought by all the angry callers.  Her comment was empathic and recognized the stress these people must have been under during those days.

Then she put in her request:  “My street is a cut through to Roswell Road (a major road in Atlanta) and cars are slipping all over my street.  I’m sure it would help the situation for people trying to get to Roswell Road if you would scrape my street.”

Her street was scraped and passable the next day. 

You can catch more flies with honey….. 

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