Recall a recent disagreement, whether at work or home. To what extent did you:

a) Assert your needs?

b) Cooperate with others’ needs?

The mix of assert/cooperate gives you five ways to react (source: Thomas-Kilmann). Sure, you may have a habitual style, but you don’t have to get stuck.

To illustrate, let’s imagine a gate agent at the airport.

Option #1: Dictate (high assertion, low cooperation)

Gate agent to passengers: “Your flight to Chicago will be boarding in two minutes, and if you don’t get on right away, we’ll leave without you.

“Once boarded, we’ll probably sit on the tarmac for a while. Maybe we’ll eventually take off, maybe we won’t.

“Sometimes, we take off and then decide to land somewhere unexpectedmaybe a different city, or a cornfield. And if you don’t like ittough.”

Option #2: Accommodate (low assertion, high cooperation)

Gate agent to passengers: “When would YOU like to leave? Right now? Fine. Why didn’t you just say so?

“We’ll notify the captain, and the crew. I’m sure they had no idea they were inconveniencing you. Once they find out, they should have a plane ready at your disposal.”

Option #3: Avoid (low assertion, low cooperation)

“Some of you passengers have asked when your flight is leaving. Others want to change their seat assignments. One person wondered, ‘will there be snacks?’

“Look, we’d rather not talk about your flight. It makes us uncomfortable. Please leave us alone.”

Option #4:  Compromise (moderate assertion, moderate cooperation)

“We know it’s late, and you want to leave right away. We’d prefer to cancel the flight and go home to bed.

“Why don’t we split the difference? We’ll leave at midnight, but until then, we’ll be taking a nap.”

Option #5: Explore underlying needs (high assertion, high cooperation)

“The last flight from Boston to Chicago already left. You say you need to go to Chicago tonight. Ok, but do you really “need” to go to O’Hare airport?

“We’ve got a nonstop flight to LAsuppose we get you on that?

“The LA flight passes right over Chicago, where the weather calls for clear skies and moderate winds. Once we get close, you could simply grab your bags, move to the rear of the plane, and parachute out.”

Is one option always best?

No. Like travel, it depends where you’re trying to go, and how you want to get there.

Tip: Could you be more assertive? More cooperative? Experiment.

© Copyright 2021 Paul Hellman.  All rights reserved.

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