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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Speak Up Proactively - With a Smile

An opportunity for advocating for yourself by speaking up occurs every time you begin a new relationship with any type of salesperson, an attorney, a mechanic, or a physician.

Let's look at each of the above examples:

The Salesperson

How many of you have felt pressure from a salesperson?

It seems to happen most to me when I am looking at large appliances such as washer/dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators. And of course, it happens when you are attempting to purchase a car.

Plan the limits you will set ahead of the visit to the store or the car lot. Sometimes it helps to speak to the salesperson before he/she speaks to you. As the salesperson approaches, you smile and say, "I'm just looking."

If the salesperson says, "Let me show you the best features of this xxxxxxxx," then you can say, "I'd like to know about the best features, but then I want some time to look around by myself. I'm only looking and don't plan to buy anything today."

And then you smile again.

The Attorney

Every attorney with whom I have met has a vast amount of knowledge about how I should be protecting myself in my life. One of the difficulties of visiting an attorney is that often he/she has important information about other legal issues you may need to take care of, other than the one for which the appointment is made.

However, I can get overwhelmed by the possibilities of decisions to be made that were not on my agenda.

A proactive way to approach the attorney is to smile at the beginning of the appointment and say, "I really appreciate all the ways you look out for me.  I know your suggestions are usually ones I want to consider. However, today I would like to focus only on my will. If you have other areas in which you think you can be of help to me, I'll write them down here on this pad of paper and I can then make a later appointment to focus on them one at a time."

And of course, you smile, indicating that you feel pleasant about all of this.

The Auto Mechanic

When I take my car in for an oil change, the quick change place I go to is frequently interested in selling me more than the basic oil change. After I learned this, now I don't even allow them to start their speech to convince me.

As the salesperson approaches me with his/her head shaking, saying, "Ma'am, you should let us do the super luxurious deluxe oil change," I try to hear him as if he were simply making noise.

I smile and say, "All I need today is the basic oil change."

Usually he/she has evidence to support what I should do to my car - a fluid stick with a certain color that means nothing to me, an air filter that has varying degrees of darkness in different areas. I don't know enough for any of it to mean anything to me, so occasionally I may
actually need what the mechanic is pushing. 

However, if I am clear that my budget today only supports an oil change, then I continue to smile pleasantly, and say, "All I need today is the basic oil change." 

(I also make a mental note to check with my car dealer to see if what the mechanic is suggesting is something I should do in the future.)

The Physician

On the first visit to a new physician, we each have a wonderful opportunity to state directly what we are needing. It's a time to consider exactly what would make you comfortable in
the doctor's office.

One of my private practice clients does not want to be pressured about weight. She explained on the first visit that she would prefer to weigh facing away from the numbers on the scale. She also requested that her weight not be mentioned unless her health were in some way threatened.

Another of my clients asked the physician on her first visit if he would please explain his findings after she was fully dressed. She felt demeaned to talk to the doctor about her health while sitting naked under the paper gown on an examining table.

Everyone doesn't need to make these two requests, but both of these are examples of advocating for yourself with a physician. 

Even if it is not your first visit to the physician, if you are uncomfortable about something in the way your doctor's visits are handled, there is no time like the present to bring it up with your physician.

Again as you make these requests, you smile as you speak because you are making a positive proactive request.

Speaking up to your salesperson, your attorney, your mechanic or your physician are all moments to practice self-advocating skills.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

An Assertive Person is not an Adversary

Speaking up for oneself in an assertive manner often brings to mind the image of two people warily circling each other, fists raised, prepared to strike.  Each person wants to get his/her way.

In fact, the most effective assertiveness is not adversarial at all.  The most effective way of speaking up involves connecting with or joining the other person.

Without engaging in connecting, a person may use perfect assertive language and still be deeply involved in a power struggle.  In the book, Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury call this "positional bargaining."   

Imagine two people engaged in a tug of war.  If they are equally strong, then neither of them will move as they pull against one another and both of them will grow very tired!  Getting into a power struggles uses up a lot of energy and generally does not go anywhere.  

Connecting in the process of assertiveness involves three skills:

1.  Expressing yourself with empathy
2.  Looking for areas of agreement
3.  Staying open to different options for mutual gain

Expressing yourself with empathy

If my friend and I are working on a project together and we reach a point at which we need to negotiate about putting outside of work hours on the project, I might say:  "We both have so many responsibilities outside of work.  I know it must be hard for you to imagine our working past regular hours with children as young as yours."

When I say this, I am trying to put myself in the other person's shoes.  He or she will feel more understood when I am empathic with his/her situation The chances are higher that we will come to an agreement about how to manage the extra work when empathy is expressed.  

When each of us is thinking about how the other feels, we are connecting to the other person and his/her life situation.

Looking for areas of agreement
We go farther in negotiation when we can determine what we agree on rather than get stuck in our disagreements.  
Listening well to the other person is the key to finding areas of agreement.

"It sounds like both of us agree that this is a high priority project."

Another way to find areas of agreement is to ask defining questions:

"So do you agree with me that there is so much work here that we will have to find a way to do it outside of regular business hours?"  

Every time you find an area of agreement, an added bonus happens.  The other person feels more connected to you and then is more willing to work with you!

Staying open to options for mutual gain

If you can see the other person as a resource and see ways that you can each help the other get to his/her goals, then you have the beginning of a good team.  The process of determining mutual gain starts the minute this type of negotiation begins.

The key to finding as many possible options for solving a problem is brainstorming.  In brainstorming, each of you throws out ideas.  Some may work and some may not be possible.  The very act of brainstorming says that there are many options.  

Once options are suggested, then the task is to sort out what options will lead to mutual gain.  If you can join each other in this decision, then the negotiation has become a Win/Win situation and everyone goes away feeling good.

Leo Lionni wrote a children's book called Little Blue and Little Yellow.  The book is the story of two colors, Little Blue and Little Yellow.  When they each come out to play together, they discover that they play best when they are connected.  In the joining they are no longer Little Blue and Little Yellow.  Instead, their connected part, the part where they are mutually blended is a whole new color:  Green!