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Day 20. The Be Factual Approach

Now that you’re embracing healthy boundaries, there are going to be instances where you’ll need to approach a person about their behaviour, so you need to be equipped with tools to distance you from habits that haven’t worked for you. The first of these tools, The Be Factual Approach, is a quick, simple approach that will dramatically change your interactions.

The Be Factual Approach is about being direct with statement as opposed to hinting, judgment and jumping to conclusions.

When you’re not factual, you tend to take ownership of other people’s behaviour. You also inadvertently get their back up by focusing primarily on talking about the outcome (your feelings) or how you perceive them in light of the issue, all while using those words and phrases that undermine you, or through generalisation. What typically occurs is that they latch on to something you’ve said and query or dismiss what you’re saying. 

Note: factual does not mean unemotional.

Factual means reality. It contains your emotions. The difference is not muddying the waters with projection, trying to role-play the other person’s part, or trying to rule or guilt the person with your feelings.

Let’s look at The Be Factual Approach in action:

Two weeks ago, you spoke with your partner about him/her not showing up in the relationship. They made noises about how it’s not what you think and said stuff that acted as reassurance and a statement of intent that things would improve. After a slight surge of attentiveness, they’re back to blowing hot and cold, saying that they’re going to spend time with you and then backing out at the last minute.

In the past, you might have held in your frustrations and concerns and then erupted and vented. Or, maybe you’d wonder what you’ve done wrong or why you’re not worthy of them honouring their promises. Eventually you say something like, “You obviously don’t care about me. You lied.”

This might be how you feel, but remember, feelings aren’t statements of fact. Starting with a conclusion means that you’re closed to discussion, and that creates a fertile ground for defensiveness on both sides.

Boundaried 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 quick factual summary of the issue.

It also really helps if you stick to three key points that capture the nuts and bolts of your concerns because you don’t get so lost in detail or throw everything at them but the kitchen sink.

Before boundaries: You make me feel so inadequate. Why am I not good enough for you? What did I do wrong? 

Not being boundaried for you will cause you to feel bad and exacerbate and even exaggerate how you respond. It’s a disproportionate and inappropriate response.

Boundaried 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’. 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 an indictment of you and doing a mix of people 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.
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.”

“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 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 allows them to clarify what their intent was or to explain, plus it also lets them know that it’s unacceptable to you.
  • What you’re doing is representing your feelings, needs, etc., without crossing boundaries.
  • The Be Factual Approach is brilliant with people who are habitually passive-aggressive and crazy-makers you that try to get you to make sense out of nonsense. Another tool you will be learning about the Broken Record technique.
  • Also note that shady folk, particularly the narcissistically inclined, have an aversion to facts in the way that vampires do to daylight and garlic.
  • If you don’t actually state what the issue is, including the facts, and you end up focusing on your judgement of them, it distorts the issue at hand, and they tend to focus on arguing against your assessment. 

    JOURNALING: How do you feel when you imagine being direct instead of hinting at what you actually want to say? What are the thoughts, feelings and concerns that come up? Which people in your life do you think that this approach will work with? Is there anyone who you feel uneasy about? See if you can home in on specific concerns about that individual. What are you anticipating? If you don’t use this approach and use an old habit instead, what’s the likely outcome in terms of how you feel, think and act afterwards? This gives you a sense of the cost of the indirectness and going down an old path. See if you can come up with some reassurances for you.

    TASK: It’s always easier to start with normal day-to-day living. You don’t need to wait until you have a boundary situation. Next time you’re writing a text or email where you need to ask for or state something, check to see if you’re using any of these habits and omit. Next time you’re in a situation where you need to suggest something, be mindful of the way you’re putting you across so that you can feel good about you in the interaction. Notice how you feel when you try this out, not just how you feel immediately after but also how you feel later that day and the following day – even if you feel panicky initially, say positive things to reassure you. Try, “I am safe, I am secure”.

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