Assertiveness: When to address distress?

Perhaps you know someone at work who continues to behave in a way that is causing distress. Maybe they talk very loudly when on the phone and you share an office space with them, or possibly they critique your work in a tone that is condescending.  You might feel like you have given the person the benefit of the doubt, but it seems that this behavior is getting more and more troublesome for you.  When do you decide to address this?  Will talking to this person only make things more awkward and uncomfortable?  Is there something you are doing that is contributing to this co-worker’s behavior?

My first recommendation is to take time to think this out and bounce it off someone you trust.  Dealing with sticky situations in the heat of the moment can make them even more sticky.

Photo by topgold.  Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo by topgold. Attribution license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Practice how you might approach this conversation.  Find a way to create a private space to talk to this person.  Start the conversation with an appreciation, such as “I really appreciate how much you help me.”  When addressing the issue, provide example of what occurred and how it made you feel.  Then allow the person to take in what you say.  They may need to clarify some things and ask some questions.  Finally, see if you both can find a way to try to resolve what hasn’t been working.  If you don’t have time for that or need more time to consider what might work, make an agreement to check in again to see what either of you might come up with.  Finally, agree to some time frame for seeing if new solution/plan is working for both of you.  This will allow you time to tweak things in the future if needed, and it also keeps the conversation going.