Practicing Respectful Intentional Selection: How to say No Respectfully

Respectful Intentional Selection (RIS) is a way to be both inclusive and selective.  It’s the Powerful way to say NO, without rejection!  What you are really doing is saying YES!   RIS focuses on saying YES to what you want and redirecting away from what you don’t.

To be able to practice RIS successfully you need to be very clear on what you are saying Yes to. Thus it is important to spend some time clarifying your personal values, qualities, especially in relationships, and goals.   What do you want in your life?  Who do you want to be?  What is your current achievement focus?   Clarify what you stand for, your best practices and are currently committed to doing.

This doesn’t have to be perfect nor ridged, refinement and adjustment, as you live life, is part of the process.  However you do need to be comfortable with what you stand for, your best practices, and current commitments.  If not you are likely to doubt yourself.  When in doubted about ones roles and responsibilities others can more easily redirect your actions.  In addition when in doubt you are more likely to be less respectful and say NO as a rejection.

Once you have a fairly clear idea of your values, who you want to be, and your current achievement focus, you’ll know what you are saying Yes to.  As a result, what you are saying No to.   With this step completed it is possible to practice RIS.  This is a key step for preparation for saying No respectfully.

I will briefly describe the process of RIS using an example based on a recent interaction where someone gave feedback that they ‘didn’t like being referred to as a number to a service provider’.   It resulted in them being profoundly disrespected and rejected.  The rejection was not required and naturally significantly hurt the individual. Understanding RIS did help the individual process the rejection.

RIS in action:

When someone asks you to do something

The first step is to

Step 1: Listen carefully to the request

Sometimes this step is difficult, perhaps we don’t have much time or quality listen skills, our ego steps in and ensures we only hear what our ego asserts or we may be triggered and emotions make it very difficult if not impossible for us to hear what is being said.  Still paying proper attention is a choice and is a skill that can be developed and is foundational to being respectful.

Then you

Step 2: Reflect and consider the request.

At this stage you will value from taking

Step 3: Clarification

‘I hear you saying you don’t like being referred to as a number.  Is this correct?’

It is very important to gather accurate information.  Too often inappropriate decisions are made due to misunderstandings, ego or emotionally triggered reactions.

Once you have the required information accurately.

Step 4: A decision is required.  You have three choices: a) you aren’t sure if no is your desired response; b) you know you want to say yes; or c) no is the desired response.  Your next step depends on your decision.

If you decide you are not sure:

Step 5a: Validation with Potential Inclusion.

Is the appropriate response.

‘Yes that sounds like a valid point.  At the same time we find it much easier to refer to our clients as a number; I wonder if there is a way to integrate the two approaches?  Let me consider it and get back to you.   I will get back to you by the end of the week.’

Or you want to say Yes as there is a match to your yes.

Step 5b: Validation and Inclusion

‘Yes that is a valid point.  I believe it will be workable for us to refer to you as a person before asking for your number.  I will instigate the change immediately.’

Or you want to say No, The request doesn’t fit your Yeses.

Step 5c: Clarification with Empowerment and Redirection, based in clearly articulated guidelines.

‘While I hear and accept your view in this space we have made it a policy to use numbers when referring to our clients, it is easier for us.   While I understand your preference it doesn’t work for us and we will not be changing our process.   You can choose to adapt to be referred to by your number and I can support you transition to the change by providing you with your number so you can use it with ease.   Or I can recommend another provider for you. Which would you prefer?’

As you can read not one of these responses provide a Rejective No.   Rejection is not required in respectful interactions.  Listening, validation, clear articulation of what you stand for allows for informed and empowered decision making for all in a respectful manner.  This is RIS.

The keys to powerfully and effectively saying No is to practice RIS via:

  • Clarifying what you stand for, your best practices, and are doing.
  • Listen carefully to and reflect on the request before making your decision.
  • Validate, everyone has a right to his or her perspective and desires.
  • Clearly articulated guidelines of practice and
  • Empowerment with Redirection and Choice.

Practicing RIS provides a powerful way to say No respectfully.   In addition by developing your knowledge and skills in RIS you’ll feel more comfortable with rejection.  Not because rejection is any less hurtful, this is due to our biological nature.  However you’ll be able to successfully reframed ‘rejection’ to ‘Intentional Selection’ with understanding of the challenges of practicing RIS.  This reduces the tendency to personalise the rejection and see it as a poor effort at Intentional Selection or a reaction out of fear.

The Truth About Rejection

Rejection is a process of punishment.  We are biologically wired to suffer deeply from rejection.  This is because it causes harm, even if it is claimed to be to an act of protection.  It is based in fear or intention to harm.   Thus rejection has no place in Respectful Communication or Accountability.

Generally the practice of rejection hides a fear to face ones own shadows, ones personal rejected aspects.  It may also be due to ignorance or immaturity, poor skills and poor accountability processes.

Rejection causes harm to the strong biological drive for connection and acceptance, our need to belong.  It is the opposite of inclusion and empowerment.  Being inclusive does not mean it is necessary to embrace all around us.  This too can be very harmful in numerous ways.

We all have a right to say No!  It is when and how we say no that makes the difference.   The alternative to rejection is Intentional Selection.   Respectful Intentional Selection (RIS) is carried out using validation, clearly articulated guidelines, empowerment and appropriate redirection.

Rejection results in broken trust and shattered relationships, not just between the specific individuals of any specific incident.  The impact of rejection ripples out to others and inward to ones inner self.   For the target rejection wounds ones sense of worth.   For the instigator(s) it wounds the inner connection of self-respect and humane compassion, separating oneself further from the aspect of one’s self that is hidden in the shadows as well as those being rejected.

While witnesses, whether directly or indirectly, experience a wide range of psychological harms can occur.  It includes promotion of fear, one maybe the next target, self worth, strengthening of their shadows and disconnection from their inner self, harm to relationships in general, as well as associated stress which easily leads to physical poor health.

While, RIS results in recognition of acceptance and self worth, as well as empowerment that supports the achievement of an appropriate outcome for all.  Empowerment may mean redirection to a more appropriate source for ones request or support to obtain the required resources or development of appropriate skills.  I repeat the opposite of rejection is not to embrace all.   It is very appropriate to select what one embraces. Respectful Intentional Selection is a powerful alternative or rejection.

Rejection is a form of punishment that causes harm and thus is counter to Respectful Communication.   While the opposite of rejection is inclusion, inclusion does not mean one needs to embrace all.

Respectful Intentional Selection is inclusive whilst the respecting right of choice by empowering the right to say no appropriately. Respectful Intentional Selection means using validation and empowerment or redirection as appropriate and choice, to support respectful outcome for all.


Who’s Ruling Your World? Assholes or Beautiful Souls!

Robert Sutton (2010) officially brought the term Asshole into the business world to describe those I usually refer to as Toxic Individuals.  In his book ‘The No Asshole Rule’ he describes the damage such individuals tend to wreck.  Whether it be at home or at work, Assholes with their domineer and disrespectful ways, cause much harm for others and organisations alike.  Sadly they are increasingly encountered in our society. At the same time there is another kind of individual, those I refer to as Beautiful Souls, who have the opposite effect on others.  Beautiful Souls bring respectful caring to the world. Fortunately we can chose whether we allow Assholes or Beautiful Souls to Rule our World.

In order for us to select who Rules Our World we need to be able to recognise and distinguish Assholes from Beautiful Souls.   Happily it is not hard to do. In order to distinguish them we’ll examine the difference between Assholes and Beautiful Souls in more a detail.  Once we can distinguish them we can select whether Assholes or Beautiful Souls Rule Our World.

Characteristics of Assholes include their overwhelming need to maintain control and they often enjoy observing others suffer.  Indeed they will create situations purely for such enjoyment, without remorse.  They are habitually dishonest, whether it be small twists of truths to serve them or outright lies.  They believe they never make mistakes, thus apologies are not heard from Assholes.  Instead they rapidly and skilfully shift blame for things that go wrong, while easily claiming ownership for others successes.

Due to their selective treatment of others, some people will think a specific Asshole is a wonderful person and find it hard to believe the ‘stories of abusive behaviours’ by that Asshole.  At the same time Assholes persistently leave others, their targets, feeling disrespected and demeaned.  Usually Assholes, at least, believe they have power and or social status over their targets.

On the other hand Beautiful Souls are persistently polite and warm to others, regardless of their social position.  They are those that consistently leave others feeling good, no matter who they are.  Beautiful Souls are respectful, caring, and appreciative which they communicate in their very presence.  In addition they take responsibility for their actions, they are comfortable apologising, are helpful, listen well and are willing to adapt.   When I think of Beautiful Souls I think of Dali Lama.   Beautiful Souls are amazing people who overflow with kindness, authenticity and respect for all.   Unfortunately we don’t see many Dali Lamas in our society.

This shortage of True Beautiful Souls is because as human beings we have a tendency to drop, at least on occasions, into Asshole mode.  This is quite different to True Assholes. Sutton (2010) refers to these individuals as temporary assholes.   Myself I consider them either difficult or challenging individuals.

As Assholes are increasing in number they tend to Rule Our World by default.   To have Beautiful Souls Rule our World requires a conscious choice.  However by selecting Beautiful Souls we increase our health wellbeing and general success in life.  If individual takes on the challenge of being a Beautiful Soul, I refer to them as Beautiful Souls in Training.  And this is where the challenge sets in.  Distinguishing Beautiful Souls from Assholes is quite easy, however in reality we are far more likely to encounter difficult, or challenging individuals and Beautiful Souls in Training than true Beautiful Souls.  Distinguishing them from Assholes is not quite so easy.

Beautiful Souls in Training are those who have consciously chosen to Have Beautiful Souls Rule their World.  They are Skilling Up to improve their self-care, self-awareness, communication and relationships skills so that they are more frequently in Beautiful Soul Mode.  You can recognise Beautiful Souls in Training by their generally Beautiful Soul approach to life.

Beautiful Souls in Training are respectful, open, apologise, express appreciation and usually leave others feeling good about themselves.  However on occasion they slip and demonstrate Asshole behaviours, which they generally regret.  Beautiful Souls in Training realise mistakes are made in the journey of Becoming a Beautiful Soul and accept the slips as part of Becoming A Beautiful Soul.  They do however reflect on how to reduce the slips.  In addition we also have to consider difficult and challenging people.  Those that are not Assholes but at times display Asshole Behaviour without taking on the challenge of Becoming a Beautiful Soul.

Importantly by focusing on the key difference between Assholes and Beautiful Souls, including Beautiful Souls in Training, we can distinguish by the impact they have on others.  Assholes have two effects on others, those they feel worthy see a nice person, while those who are considered below them are left feeling dreadful; while Beautiful Souls leave others, regardless of their status, feeling good about themselves.  And Beautiful Souls in Training are consciously increasing their practice of being a Beautiful Soul thus more frequently than not leave people feeling respected and good about them self.

Now you know the difference between Assholes and Beautiful Souls and the impact they have on others it is time for you to consider Who Rules Your World, Assholes or Beautiful Souls?  If you choose Beautiful Souls you can start by becoming a Beautiful Soul in Training.  This is a foundational choice to make.  We’ll look at this process of Becoming Beautiful a Soul in the next article.

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Life was meant to be enjoyed.

Dr Janelle Sheen


Sutton, R. 2010 The No Asshole Rule Piatkus London






The Problem with ‘Toughen Up’

All too commonly to ‘Toughen Up’ is to pretend all is well when it is not. ‘Toughening Up’ is to ignore yourself, to deny yourself, to not respond to how you feel or accept that what you think doesn’t matter. This is to disconnect yourself from yourself. To ‘Toughen Up’ in this way is an act of violence. It is to tear your mind, heart and soul apart.

Often others tell you to ‘Toughen Up’ so acts of violence can continue, especially low-level violence. You know when others are rude, mean, and hurtful or disrespectful. Often you are told to ‘Toughen Up’ so you accept these acts of violence as normal and ok. People that behave in ways designed to hurt or disrespect you are carrying out acts of violence. ‘Toughening Up’ in response to such actions perpetrates such violence.

When someone tells you to ‘Toughen Up’ they might be well intentioned thinking that ‘Toughening Up’ is a form of self-protection and a means to strengthen you. It is not. It is weakening you as it tears you apart and creates disconnection at your core. This results in reduced ability to think clearly and respond, that is chose to act in your own best interests in a healthy and respectful way. Instead you are more likely to react, come from your biological flight fight fawn or freeze nature.

There is a way to become stronger, to protect yourself from the harms of such violence. You could choose acts of self-respect instead. This requires you to ‘Skill Up’. To ‘Skill Up’ with self-respect is to protect your self while maintaining self-connection. This means you need to pay attention to your needs and act on them in a nourishing and protective manner.

To respectfully protect oneself is to stay in touch with what is happening with caring and act on that caring with skill.   True sometimes that means to postpone an act of nourishment. Acts of self-protection may require us to postpone nourishment temporarily; they are not about denying our self that nourishment.

The big difference between ‘Toughening Up’ and ‘Skilling Up’ with respect is the act of paying attention to yourself, to acknowledge your need and to act on it effectively. This requires Respectful Communication, the acknowledgement of your need and do your very best to act on your need. This includes and requires developing ones skills to do so, rather than pretend there is no need. If you’re best in any one moment is not overly successful. That is ok. It just means it is time to repair any harm and develop new skills. That is life.

Acts of Respect requires one to feel capable and considerate, exercise self control, and respond in an empowering way. Acts of disrespect can be either reactive acts or planned acts that disempower for the purpose of gaining control.   They are opposite in the power flow and outcome.

Disrespect is to                                          Respect is to

Disregard                                                      Relinquishes control

Act to disempower                                     Pays attention and                                                                                 validates

Attempts to Control                                   Act to empowering

Disconnects                                                  Connects


Outcome (and often source)

Feel threatened and insecure                 Feel Safe Capable and                                                                              Considered


To ‘Skill Up’ with self-respect is to develop your ability to care for yourself, to pay attention to what is causing pain and act on it in a protective yet not disconnected manner. Some ways to ‘Skill Up’ so you become stronger with self-respect are:

  • Develop and maintain your self connection
    1. Build self awareness and other empathic skills
    2. Implement self care
    3. Be true to your self
      1. Act on your own needs and desires respectfully
  • Develop skills in remaining calm
    1. Meditation
    2. Deep breathing
    3. Releasing stored emotions / triggers
  • Stay curious and exploratory in nature
    1. Continue to learn
    2. Recognise ‘failures’ and ‘mistakes’ as opportunities to grow/ learn
  • Build your self belief and confidence
    1. Implement self accountability
    2. Start small with goals and complete them
    3. Acknowledge and appreciate each of your achievements
    4. Gradually stretch, make your goals more challenging
  • Build your reliability
    1. Speak your truth with kindness
    2. Keep your word
  • Learn to recognise and let go of what you cannot do anything about
    1. Develop your ability to take personal responsibility for your life
    2. Grasp the reality that you can not control anything but yourself
    3. Clearly define your roles and responsibilities and use them to guide your actions
  • Remain hopeful, have a dream that you can realistically move toward
    1. Back to Building Your Self Belief
    2. Remember to do Develop and Maintain your Self Connection

Remember its ok to make mistakes, developing skills is a journey, mistakes are made and they’re for us to learn from.


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Self-Determination for Life Satisfaction

Ok I confess for sooo long I lived for others.  Trying to do the ‘right thing’. Trying to keep others ‘happy’.  Even trying to ‘stay out of trouble’.  Well after many many years I have come to accept: no matter what I do there is no ‘right thing’, its not possible to keep others ‘happy’ nor am I able to ‘stay out of trouble’.  The truth is everyone wants something different and it’s just not possible to please others, especially not all the time.

The truth is the only way anyone is going to truly be happy, with his or her life and relationships, is to be self-determined, to live by their own rules and standards. Each person needs to do this for him or herself.  No I’m not saying to ignore others.  That would be disrespectful and wrong in my book.  Nor am I saying stop caring about others and your impact on them.   That would be a breach of my core values of caring kindness and respect.

What I am saying is, it is essential to know what is important to you, and how to look after yourself.   To choose to live in such a way as to fulfil your needs and desires and trust you will find others who are like-minded.

To empower you to live a Self-Determined life here are five steps to being Self-Determined and experiencing greater Life Satisfaction.

First reveal what is important to you.  And I do mean YOU.  Not what you have been told is important.   You might need to give yourself permission to seek out and reveal what is important to you.  If so go ahead.

Now, how to reveal the things that are important to you?  Well think of the things you enjoy doing, the things that inspire you into action.  The things you do naturally and think nothing of.   These are good indications they are important to you.

Second start discovering ways to have more of these things in your life.  Some maybe easy to achieve, perhaps you love reading (OK I do).  So ensure you get to read often, if not every day.  Oh and what you love reading.   I knew a lad who didn’t want to read at all, he was into learning practical skills.  Yet when provided with the catalogues for the local hardware stores reading became a thing to do.  He didn’t love reading but he did love doing practical tasks and discovering the best tools at the best price, which enabled him to get more tools so, he could do more practical things.  Sometimes we do things we don’t love doing simply because they give us more of what we do love doing.

Other things will not be so easy.  For example I love empowering others.  Facilitating them learning things they want to learn and enabling them to do more of what they want.   This takes more skill and positioning.   So I work on that, knowing I am increasing the chances to do so magnificently.

Third consider the type of person you want to be?  What qualities do you want to uphold?  Perhaps you want to be an explorer?  Yet the very idea is overwhelming.  Ok, so consider something small you could explore.  The local parkland.  The best place to find magnificent coffee or hot chocolate.  Then go do it.  As you build confidence in practicing this activity you will find it easier do it more.   Do you want to be seen as a caring person?  What would that look like how would you enact it.  Do it?  Think of a number of qualities, select one and work on that until it is part of you.  Then choice the next one and continue on.

Fourth consider the type of person you want to hang out with.   Do you want to hang out with people that are supportive kind considerate?  What would these people be like, what actions would they take?  Look for them and spend more time with the people who act this way.   Spend more time with people you enjoy.

Fifth consider your long term desires.  What do you want to be known for?  What are the dream things you’d like to do?  Yet are currently out of reach.  List them and start developing plans for achieving these and then start actioning the plan.  Small steps are still steps.  Often once on your chosen path amazing things happen and you find you achieve your desires sooner than you expect.

Follow these five steps and see what a difference they can make to the quality of your life.  Remember this is not about being disrespectful of others.  It is important to consider others, practice caring kindness while enhancing your life.

It is about being respectful to yourself.

How to do both at the same time???  That is another blog for sure.




Connection for Better Conversations

So when was the last time you had the experience of attempting to talk with someone and feeling that they just were not listening!  You know, the feeling of disconnect.   Perhaps it was obvious their thoughts are else where, or their replies just didn’t relate to what you said.   Maybe you just sense it despite their apparent attention.   Whatever way it happened it didn’t feel so good, did it?

Maybe it was you disconnecting.   I know I did it just the other day.  I was driving along, having a conversation when I needed to pay more attention to the road; as a consequence the conversation lost my attention completely.   ‘Sorry ‘ I said, ‘I had to concentrate on the road’ ‘That’s Ok’ they said, ‘I understand’.   Or as often happens when I arrive home, worn out, unable to provide much attention to the requests then made of me.   ‘Sorry’ I said, ‘right now is not a good time I need to rest a moment’.

Disconnection in conversations is part of life.  Something we need to embrace as a part of reality.  If we don’t we are likely to feel a lot of pain from a sense of rejection.  Perhaps forgetting we do it too.  Whatever reason disconnection occurs it prevents satisfying conversations and effective communication.

The thing is that today, Facebook and phones, computer games and TV shows, not to mention movies, are adding to reasons we are taken away from the important task of conversing.  The natural occurrences of disconnection are escalating, possibly out of control.  The result. Well, increased feelings of isolation, rejection and loneliness.  These not only feel terrible, they also have a detrimental affect on our relationships, as well our physical and psychological health.

So how about we turn the tide?  Increase connection, have better conversations and enhance our relationships and heath as a consequence.  Here are six fairly easy steps we can all take.

  • Set aside time for conversations.

Put aside all distractions and potential distraction for the time.  There is very limited truth to the idea of multitasking.  You can only fully focus on and give proper attention to one thing at a time.  Respectful communication requires proper attention.

  • Smile and use gentle eye contact.

A genuine smile with gentle eye contact supports the provision of a safe space inviting your conversation partner to partake.  Oh and I do mean a genuine smile. You know the ones that come from inside and light up your eyes.

  • Give your conversation partner your full attention.

Focus on being present, in the here and now and being really with them.  This empowers your ability to partake in Respectful Conversation.  Providing full attention intentionally and regularly helps overcome the times you are disconnected due to natural moments of distraction.

  • Listen deeply.

So what are they saying?  And not just their words listen to their tone and observe their actions as well.  What are they saying at these levels?  Remember it is best to enquiry and clarify, than assume you have heard them accurately.  After all we interpret their message and could get it wrong.

  • Respond to what they say, appropriately.

Respond from your heart, not your head. All too often we spend time thinking of what to say rather than listening deeply and responding respectfully.   Thinking about what you are going to say, when they are speaking, draws attention away from them undermining your ability to truly hear them.   Then take the time to consider the kindness of our reply.

  • Enjoy 

Did I mention the importance of relaxing into the moment and enjoying the conversation, the genuine connection with another?   Really this is the first and the last point.  Every moment in between will be so much more effective and valuable if you remember to relax and enjoy the incredible time you are connecting and sharing with another.

Here’s to turning the tide and increasing more daily connection with others in conversations.  It will definitely enhance your communications, relationships and life satisfaction.

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Three Foundational Tactics used by Bullies

Previously I have raised the importance of being able to recognise inappropriate communication styles.  Being able to recognise and identify inappropriate communication is the first step to effectively reducing it in our society.   Bullying is one form of inappropriate communication that is recognised as such.   Yet all too often it is not recognised in practice.  Recognising bullying is critical if we want to create a more respectful society.  Here we’ll look at three foundational tactics used by bullies in order to clearly identify a bullying situation.

Bullies use a range of strategies and they adapt the strategies used to fit the situation. Bullies may be told, by who they perceive to be a higher power, they are not permitted to use a particular strategy.  The most skilled bullies will stop using the specified strategy, unless they believe they can still get away with it.  However as bullying is related to an attitude to life and achieving a desired out come, bullies will simply adapt and use another strategy.  Yet there is some core or basic Tactics bullies will use and these are relatively easy to recognise.   We’ll look at three of them: Denial, Blaming and Confusion.

Bullies will ‘deny’ they did something inappropriate.  They will do so with ease and systematically.  They will set up documents to support the denial as ‘evidence’ they did not do what they have done.  They are aware what they are doing is considered inappropriate and will select where and how they implement the inappropriate action to enhance their deniability.   Perhaps they only bully when no one else is present, or only those they are able to bully or when other bullies are present.  Whichever works for them, at the time, is what they will do.  At the same time any thing that goes well bullies will claim responsibility for, even if they didn’t have anything to do with it.

Blaming is the follow through of denial.  Whenever anything goes wrong it is never the bully’s fault or responsibility.  Bullies are quick to point the finger at someone or something else.  They are quick to find excuses for any of their actions easily passing responsibility, ideally you if you are their target.  If you are a target you are likely to be blamed for all of their inappropriate actions.  ‘You made me do it’.  This is a foundational indication of their lack of willingness to take responsibility for their actions.

If bullies can get you to accept responsibility, not only have they successfully shifted responsibility from them self, they have also enhanced their control over you.   For if you accept responsibility you are also likely to move into guilt and corrective actions.  Or worse sink into a trap of attempting to please them.  They are controlling what you do by instigating guilt and your desire to please.

If one is gullible, that is willing to accept the denial and blaming, ‘confusion’ will easily set in.  One is no longer sure what is true and not.  No longer sure what did or did not happen.   Doubt has set in.  This in itself is very disorientating, however it also leaves one open to further inappropriate treatment.  Bullies embrace the ability to confuse others as it supports their intention to get their own way.  Cooperative individuals are easily gullible, as they tend to want to believe in others.

If you know someone who routinely denies their actions, continuously blames someone or something else for what goes wrong and or you regularly feel confused related to them and interactions with them, it is time to take a break.  Create some distance between this person and yourself.  Give yourself time to reorientate yourself and then plan a means to clarify what is happening.

I repeat if you regularly experience these indicators, denial, blaming and confusion, from anyone, consider them a likely bully.  Particularly if you are becoming isolated from others, who may help you keep a realistic perspective.

Yes it is critical to distinguish challenging situations from interactions with bullies.  It is important to double check it is not yourself that is in denial or blame.  However do not blindly accept it is you.

Always ensure you are interacting with others and ask them for assistance clarifying the situation.  Listen only to those that will listen to you and ask questions of you, your response, as well as the potential bully’s actions.  That is they are attempting to support you get a balanced perspective.

Importantly do not be mistaken, if you are experiencing the actions of a bully they know what they are doing and you need to take self-protective action asap.    If you are being accused of being a bully consider checking out ‘Responding to Accusations of being a Bully’.   If we want to have more respectful communication and interactions we need to act to reduce the inappropriate interactions while building more respectful skills.   Recognising inappropriate communication is the first step.   Appropriate action is the follow through.

Distinguishing Controlling and Cooperative Communication

Previously I distinguished Challenging, Difficult and Toxic Conversations within that article I mentioned the importance of learning to distinguish between Controlling and Cooperative Communication.  Doing so is the first step in managing any level of difficult conversation.  It is also the first step for improving your own communication style and thereby quality of life.

First it is important to understand that all our communication is designed for us to achieve something we want.  That is what communication is about.  We want, food, connection, information, a task performed.  We communicate with others to achieve our desire, fulfil a need.  There is nothing wrong with this. It is why we communicate.

At the same time there are different mindsets and intentions behind how we go about achieving our goal fulfilment.  How we communicate.  These different mindsets and intentions have contrasting impacts on those involved in each communication interaction.

Controlling Communication creates harm, psychological, social and physical. In addition it damages organisations and productivity within them.

Alternatively Cooperative Communication builds trust, supportive relationships, life satisfaction, physical and mental health and mutual satisfaction and productivity.

Controlling Communication is the communication style that is dominant in our society.  It is what most of us have been taught.  It is foundational to the hierarchical system that promotes a shortage of resources and means we have winners and losers.  Some individuals get what they want.  Others compromise to settle with less than they want.  Others still simply go without, either by choice or by fear or a sense of helplessness induced by actual or perceived threats.

In the worst case Controlling Communication is designed for the perpetrator to achieve their desired out come with no regard to anyone else’s needs or desires.   Others are simple tools to be used.  In the best case the individuals involved don’t know better communication strategies to achieve their desire.  They accept this is how it is, despite wishing there was a better way.   While in between we have those who may or may not know better strategies, but are living in fear that stimulates self-protective measures that result in the use of controlling strategies.

It is unfortunate that Controlling Communication is what most of us have learnt and use on day-to-day bases.  It is having a negative impact on our lives, it can be seen in the increase in violence as well harm to our mental and physical health.

Due to the recognition of the harm of controlling communication especially in the forms of bullying, harassment, manipulation and verbal abuse these strategies are accepted as inappropriate.  This is the first step in communication transformation and a wonderful thing.  However breaking the pattern of this communication style is still a challenge.   It is seen almost everywhere, at schools, our work and in our homes.  Often the strategies are so dominant they are accepted as ‘normal’ and thus continue.

Controlling Communication is any communication where force is used, where someone is going for his or her outcome without regard for others desires and needs and or, there is an element of a lack of choice.   The idea that we must do this or that, that we have no choice is frequently accepted in our society.  All too often it is more because we are well trained than it is the actuality.  We all have more choice than we realise.  Though admittedly our choices are not always easy to see, let alone enact.

Cooperative Communication is when everyone’s needs and desires are put on the table and considered.  Compromises are avoided big time.  Everyone matters and there is a belief it is possible for all to achieve their desire.  This can take creativity to find a suitable outcome or even acknowledgement that there is a mismatch, a mismatch simple means moving on to another potential source for fulfilment of the desire.

As Cooperative Communication is new for many of us, this means we need to learn new strategies and develop the skills in their use.  Fortunately there is increasing research demonstrating more effective communication strategies, showing a path forward.   If you desire to have more fulfilling relationships, more life satisfaction, health, wellbeing and productivity it is time to consider developing your skills in Cooperative Communication strategies.




Recommended reading. The first book I read on the topic and a great introduction to the difference between controlling and cooperative communication.

Evans, P 1996 The Verbally Abusive Relationship Adams Media Corporation Holbrook Massachusetts

Managing Feelings of Being Bullied.

Bullying is illegal!  In Australia significant bullying is covered by ‘Brodie’s Law’ as well as Stalking[1] and is a criminal offense.  However most bullying apparently falls into the civil law domain.  Either way in theory, the law protects us from being bullied.

Yet the ‘reality’ is that many, to my horror, ‘instigators’ get away with bullying and many ‘targets’ accept it as part of life and often are ‘instigators’ in turn.  Thus despite bullying being illegal and the broad use of anti-bullying programs bullying is still rife in our society.   As a consequence learning how to manage feelings of being bullied is critical.

The reasons to manage feelings of being bullied, effectively, are important because disrespectful discourse, let alone bullying, is demonstrated to have profound impact on individuals’ health and wellbeing, including physical, mental and social health.   In organisations the impact is compounded by reduced member engagement, productive and profit.  For a more satisfying and productive life and organisations, it is time to deal with the issue of disrespectful communication and bullying.

Many people see no point in developing the relevant understanding and skills, for these people bullying tactics are accepted as normal and appropriate behavior, not as ‘bullying’.   I am aware of five main reasons for this:

  • Bullying is so common placed it is accepted as normal practice.
  • A lack of skills in distinguishing abusive and bullying behaviors from respectful communication.
  • A lack of knowledge and skills to deal with bullying effectively.
  • A lack of willingness to address the issue.
  • Difficulty in providing evidence.

As a consequence, while a respectful communication is ideal, other methods for managing feelings of being bullied are required.  Steps to managing feelings of being bullied are to:

  • Ensure one has a clear understanding of what bullying and abusive behaviors are.
  • Know relevant policies and procedures for dealing appropriately with bullying.
  • Develop relevant communication and achievement skills.
  • Acknowledge the feeling and objectively examine them when they occur.
  • Articulate the experience and feeling effectively.
  • Respond selectively and effectively to bullying experiences.
  • Have the courage to address the experience and potential outcome of doing so.

Most of these steps are clear and apparent, however the 7th may be unexpected.  I listed courage for addressing managing feelings of being bullied for two critical reasons.

Firstly to do so is going against the current social norm.   While bullying is illegal it is still accepted as normal behavior.  Excuses and justification are rife. As a consequence most bullying is currently swept under the carpet.   It is not easy to go against the norm, to reveal the hidden dirt; as a consequence many don’t what to deal with.

Secondly it means facing our own inner reality and behaviors, such that we must face our own struggles, lack of skill and take responsibility for them and our own life.  It means moving away form blame by claiming our own power and being willing to be held accountable for our own experiences and actions.  This is essential for respectful communication and achievement.   Accepting this responsibility also requires understanding and acceptance that it is journey of growth that empowers us to a more satisfying life.

I have simplified the above steps, to managing feelings of being bullied, into three key steps:

  • By having clear understanding of what bullying is and effective methods for dealing with it.
  • Managing your feelings and behaviors in your own best interest.
  • Responding selectively and effectively to ‘instigators’ behaviors.

I will address each of these steps in following articles.  The question for you right now is are you prepared to be courageous enough to face yourself so you can effectively learn and develop appropriate communication and achievement skills to up hold our social ‘ideology’ against bullying.




Forget “Forgive and Forget” its Wrong!

To forgive and forget implies we forgive someone his or her transgression(s) or mistake(s) and then let it go.  This is how transgressions and mistakes reoccur and can easily lead to escalation of the issue.  If you want growth and development this is wrong!  Especially as there are constructive alternatives.

The appropriate alternative depends on the situation and individual’s roles and responsibilities within the relationship.  To select the most appropriate response to a transgression it is important to consider the type of relationship, the individuals’ awareness and ability to meet the expectation, as well as situational requirements.

First start with the relationship.  Clarify is it an equitable relationship, where individual’s are considered to have equal power and input?  Or is a hierarchical one, with positional power differences?

In the case of true equitable relationship then the first, as always, step is to check if the expectation being transgressed is clearly articulated and agreed upon.

There is no way of getting around the reality that most, if not all, individuals are not mind readers and we can only live up to and reasonably be held accountable for expectations we are clearly aware of.  Thus if expectations in an equitable relationship are not clearly articulated and agreed upon doing so is the first process that needs to be carried out when a transgression has occurred.

To clearly articulate each expectation, it needs to be considered from the point of view of it being realistic.  It is not realistic to expect someone to go without food for a week.  It is not realistic to expect someone to do tasks they don’t have the ability to do or aren’t clear of what the task requirements are.  That is the expectation needs to be doable and clearly described.  Does everyone know what is required and have the ability, personal knowledge and skills to do it?  Do they have a supportive system and environment?  Do they have the required resources?

When any of these are not fulfilled then ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ by enhancing the system, providing the resources and develop the required knowledge and skills.

Finally is the expectation really agreed upon?   Is it necessary to negotiate or renegotiate the agreement or adjust the expectation so all parties really agree. Full agreement empowers individuals’ to live up to agreements and expectations.

In the case of hierarchical relationship its important to fulfil and then go beyond these steps.  It is important to be aware and remember those who are in positions of power are responsible for the wellbeing and development of those in their care.  Yes in their care.

If you are in a position of power it is not simply a matter of saying ‘do this because I say so’.  It is a requirement that you enable those you have a position of power over, those who you are responsible for, are able to do the tasks that they are required to do whilst maintaining their wellbeing.  Occupational Health and Safety Laws so say!   You are responsible for their safety and wellbeing.

If you are in a position of power you are responsibility for ensuring those under your command are able to do the required tasks.   This means: clarity of expectations, the tasks and timelines; provision of the required resources, including systems, materials and time; and development of required knowledge and skills; training.  This is a foundational responsibility of positional power roles, whether as a parent, supervisor, manager or CEO.  This means when transgressions occur the person with greater positional power needs to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER!  Not forgive and forget.

Start by considering the reason for the transgression.  Is it due to lack of ability, inadequate system support, inadequate resources, knowledge or silks, or perhaps a combination?

The person(s) with lessor power have the responsibility to ‘Forgive and Learn’, to EMPOWER themselves.

Finally it is also important to consider the possibility of a mismatch?  That is if an individual doesn’t match the requirements of the role and appropriate development is not realistic.  In which case adjusting the team, partnership, maybe the most appropriate alternative.

In short when a transgression has occurred take into account the type of relationship and roles and responsibilities within the relationship.  Consider the ability to meet the expectation and empower to enhance the ability to meet it where possible.  In this way to ‘Forgive and EMPOWER’ promotes growth and increased satisfaction within relationships.  Rather than continued transgression, with possible escalation, that commonly results from forgive and forget.