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Approaching people about their behaviour with the Be Factual Approach

There will be instances where you will need to approach a person about their behaviour and it’s likely that you’ve balked at doing this in the past or that past experiences have scared you off this, hence why you focus on pleasing while at the same time storing up resentment.

The Be Factual Approach is about statement versus judgement and forgone conclusions. Being factual has proved to be one of the most useful tools with my family who have been the chief source of boundary issues and angst in my life. The Be Factual Approach is about owning your own and letting others own theirs, a guiding principle of The PPD. When you’re not factual, you tend to take ownership of other people’s behaviour and you also inadvertently get their backs up by focusing solely on the outcome – how you perceive them in light of the issue.

The problem with this is that if you don’t actually state what the issue is including the facts and you end up focusing on how you’ve judged them as a result of it, it becomes about them not agreeing with your assessment plus it actually distorts the issue at hand.

Note that factual does not mean unemotional. Factual means reality and reality has your emotions in it, it's just not muddied up with projection and trying to role play the other person's part.

Let’s imagine that you’re in a relationship and that two weeks ago, you sat down with your partner and told him/her that something that they were doing was giving you the impression that they were not ‘in’ this relationship as they’d professed to be and how you’d understood them to be. They said some things in that discussion that acted as reassurance and a statement of intent that things would improve. Two weeks on, they appear to have gone back on what they said or nothing has changed.

When you’re a pleaser, it’s likely that you’re going to feel upset about this but you’re going to either stay quiet about it because you said something two weeks ago and you’re also too busy wondering about what you’ve done that’s not pleasing enough that they wouldn’t do as they’d said and step up, or, you’re going to approach them again (while still feeling wounded and invalidated) and it will come out in what you say.

Pleaser: You obviously don’t care about me. You lied to me.

This may be how  you feel but remember, feelings aren’t facts plus if you go in with conclusion, that means that you’re closed to discussion and that’s just going to be a fertile ground for defensiveness on both sides.

Reclaimed You: When we talked a couple of weeks ago, you assured me that you were going to ____________ {and you could insert specific things that were said} but since then, nothing has changed / you’ve gone back on what you said. This is a factual quick summary of the issue.

Pleaser: You make me feel so inadequate. Why am I not good enough for you? What did I do wrong? – If you say any of this stuff, it ends up distorting and even exaggerating your response to the situation. It’s a disproportionate and inappropriate response.

Reclaimed You: I’m left wondering about how serious you are because you went back on what you said and what we agreed to.

Note that there’s nothing in here about your self-worth and no shady person can claim that you’re being ‘needy’ and ‘over-emotional’. Also note that shady folk, particularly the narcissistically inclined, have an aversion to facts in the way that vampires do to daylight and garlic. You’re letting him/her know how what they’ve done has affected you – the results of their actions.

Or you could say: When you say one thing and then you do another, it puts a question mark over other things that you’ve told me that you’re going to be and do, that this discussion we had a couple of weeks ago would impact. I feel concerned about whether I’ve misread the situation and whether I can trust you.

Now this is a lot better than 1) saying nothing and absorbing what happened into some indictment of you and doing a mix of pleasing and showing your feelings through passive aggression or, 2) saying stuff that ends up saying more about how poorly you regard you.

You can also say ‘I’d like you to stop this’, or ‘I’d like to get this issue resolved’, or something to that effect which is better than saying, ‘You need to get yourself sorted out!’; ‘You need to stop this!’; or ‘You need to sort out your problems’. That person can then decide if they’re going to stop or work on a resolution with you. What you’re doing is representing your feelings, needs, etc without crossing boundaries.

More examples:

When you shout at me and call me names, not only is this a really inappropriate means of making a point but I also feel demoralised and upset. You could also add (and there will be more on this in stating boundaries): A relationship with mutual respect is very important to me. Much as I love and care for you, I will not be able to continue in this relationship if you’re going to shout at me and name call each time we have a disagreement.

We agreed to meet at 7.30 not at 8.30 and it means I’m going to have less time because I’ve already made an arrangement for 10.

When you arrive late, I’m left waiting around and it’s very frustrating.

You said that you were going to call at 3 and now it’s 4. It’ll have to be a quick call as I’ve got a meeting. – And then move on from it.

When you say one thing and then you do another, it’s very confusing and if I’m honest, I feel frustrated and annoyed. Other effects of being contradictory are that it puts a question mark over that person's honesty.

Or leave out what time it is and say, Now isn’t a good time. Let’s speak later. Or just let it go to voicemail and call back at a time that suits.

When we met up the last time, I mentioned about how I’m not really into texting. I don’t mind it for confirming arrangements and minor stuff but I’m not into carrying out long conversations by text and much prefer the phone. You said that you were OK with this but since then, we’re back to texting only again. It feels as if you would prefer to keep this to text and that you’re not really into this.

When you tell {coworkers/ team members / insert people of choice} that we’re going to do something that I’ve already said that we’re not, it encroaches on my authority and I feel undermined.

When I haven’t heard from you in quite some time, I worry about you plus I’m left to believe that you have left me without saying anything. I feel disrespected and hurt when you do this. This is not what a mutually fulfilling relationship looks like to me.

When you text or call late at night and try to come over, I’m left confused and not knowing where I stand plus it feels disrespectful.

Remember: When you are assertive and respectfully approach people about their behaviour, it gives them the opportunity to clarify what their intent was or to explain, plus it also lets them know that it is unacceptable to you.

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