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Monday, October 24, 2011

Assertive Letter to Department of Revenue

The various tax collecting agencies can easily send me in an assertive letter writing direction.  This year my correspondence came from the Georgia Department of Revenue.

Their letter, complete with columns of numbers comparing what my tax return said I paid, what they show that they received, and the difference, is designed to demonstrate to me how I have made an egregious accounting error.

My check to them was for $1.00 less than my accountant reported on my tax forms, so rather than confuse the process for next year, I sent $1.00 to the state of Georgia, leaving my overpay from 2010 to apply to 2011.

What I wonder is how they could have $XX,XXX dollars floating around and not recognize an accounting problem on their part?

I feel angry that I have to take my time to ask the bank for a copy of the check front and back (it's done by email but still takes time); that I have to write this letter; and that I have to recognize how poorly accounting may be handled by my state.  However, it will do me no good to be angry in my response to the state.

In many assertive opportunities, it's more important to be assertive respectfully than it is worth it to be angry.

So I wrote them an assertive letter simply reporting the facts to correct their error.  The key word here is SIMPLE - when you are writing government agencies about money, always simply list facts and then what you would like to occur as a result of the facts you are reporting:


To Whom it My Concern:

I am in receipt of your letter dated 10/17/2011.  Your letter fails to include the taxes I paid on April 15 in anticipation of an extension.  I am enclosing a copy front and back of my check for $XXXXX which was cashed by you on April 25, 2011. 

I apparently owe you $1.00 which I am enclosing a check to cover.

Because my taxes were paid on time and in a timely way with an excess overpaid to apply to next year, I do not owe you the penalty and interest which you have assessed. 

Please find enclosed a check for $1.00 and a copy of my check cashed by you for $XXXXX.

Thank you for clearing up this matter,

Linda D Tillman, PhD

If you write the IRS or your state department of revenue, you always enclose your SSN, which I did, but that is not apparent in my copy for you of this letter.  Also because I moved in 2011, I put my old and new address below my signature in case that is the source of their error (although my SSN stayed the same????).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Agreement: A Key Element in Negotiating in Couples' Relationships and in Everyday Life

Power struggles derail many assertive negotiations.  In such a struggle, the two negotiators each try to win.  

As in a child's tug of war, no one wins a power struggle.

You remember tug of war, I'm sure.  Usually the loser is pulled into the mud as the winner tugs him/her over the line.  And how does the winner fare?  The winner usually also falls flat on his/her back with the effort.  Everyone ends up hurt in some way or another.

Finding an Area of Agreement:

The most effective way to avoid the power struggle is to find an area of agreement.

Here is a typical marital power struggle:

Susan:   "Sam, are you going to wash the dishes?"
Sam: "I did them last night and I want to watch the Braves game."
Susan: "I really had a hard day and I'm exhausted.  I don't want to do the
            dishes.  I just want to sit down and put my feet up."
Sam: "Well, I'm not going to wash all those dishes."
Susan: "Well, I'm not either, so there."

These two are in a power struggle, each trying not to "lose."  At this point, you are probably wondering, "Can this marriage be saved?"

If these two had the agenda of arriving at an area of agreement, then the whole discussion could have been simpler and would not have turned into a power struggle.

Susan:   "Sam, there sure are a lot of dirty dishes tonight."
Sam: "There really are and I don't want to do them....I want to watch the
Braves game."
Susan:    "Sounds like neither one of us wants to do them."
Sam: "I sure can agree with that."
Susan:   "Well, since we both agree that neither of us wants to do the dishes, how can we get this awful task over with so you can watch the game and I can sit down and put my feet up?"
Sam: "Maybe we could load the dishwasher together and then do the pots and pans tomorrow."
Susan: "That would work for me - let's get started."

In the above version, Susan and Sam work for an agreement rather than trying to win a power struggle.

Walk around the first roadblock to reach agreement

If finding an area of agreement seems difficult, see if you can go around the roadblock and start the search for agreement several steps into the argument.

Years ago in my hometown of Natchez, Mississippi, the library board and my father, Dr. Clifford Tillman, a member of the board, decided that Natchez needed a new library.  When the idea of a new library was proposed to the citizens, a power struggle ensued: did the town need a new library or not?  

The idea of building of a new library "lost" the power struggle.

My father waited several months for the furor to die down.  Then he wrote a letter to the editor of the Natchez Democrat, proposing that the new library for Natchez should be built behind what was then St. Mary's Cathedral (a building over 100 years old) in Confederate Memorial Park.  All of the ancient trees in the park would have to be cut down to accomplish this.

A huge discussion began among the citizens as to where the new library should be built - certainly the trees should not be cut down!  So the process began of reaching an agreement about WHERE the new library should be built and the issue of SHOULD Natchez have a new library never resurfaced.  
A Natchez citizen donated land and Natchez now has a lovely library.

My father effectively skipped the step of whether Natchez should have a new library and thus avoided the power struggle.  The discussion he began centered on finding an area of agreement about the location of the new library.

Work toward agreement instead of working toward winning and your negotiations will go much better whether in your couple's relationship or in your work with others.