A good friend of mine recently gave me some excellent relationship advice. And, yes, I need advice, too. Because, “Can’t see the forest for the trees.” I don’t really like that metaphor, but I couldn’t think of a better one, and it gets the point across quite nicely. I may be able to see things clearly when I’m on the outside, but when I’m in the thick of it it’s hard, and an outside perspective helps. Anyway, she gave me some good advice for broaching a difficult or heavily loaded topic with another person when the focus is their behavior. In a situation where the other person’s behavior is creating an unpleasant/unwanted dynamic for you, you need a constructive non-confrontational approach. “I” messages are helpful, but you also want to be careful not to cast blame or accusation and unintentionally shut down the potentially productive conversation before it even gets started.
“I notice… do you see that? And what do you think about what I’m observing?” This is a great way to open and frame a discussion in a non-combative manner to avoid a defensive response, or one where the other person feels they are being put into problem solving or fix it mode. This technique is using an “I” message in an open manner. Instead of “I want you to…” or “I don’t like it when you…” It’s a positive and supportive approach to begin a discussion regarding another person’s situation, behavior, approach or mindset. Once the conversation gets rolling, and you reach agreement on what is going on, or have effectively shared your unique perspectives, then you can move in with what you’d like to see happen and what behaviors can be modified for that to happen.