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Online Edition — February 2003

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Ask the PowerPhrase® Expert


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Ask the PowerPhrase® Expert

Here’s another installment of our new column by Meryl Runion, a communications expert who wrote the book, PowerPhrases! The Perfect Words to Say It Right and Get the Results You Want.

I was recently traveling on business and ended up with food poisoning. Even though it was very difficult, I traveled from one business destination to another without delay and was able to conduct business to the best of my ability. I later ended up in the emergency room.

My boss joined me at the second destination but he never once asked me how I was feeling—even though I had called him in advance and informed him of the situation. Now, I find myself very angry at his insensitivity.

To make matters worse, I taught a class at the second business, and I got one bad evaluation out of 20. When we discussed the class’ results that seemed to be the only comment on which he could focus.

I feel very frustrated at the moment and think I should say something to him; however, I’m not sure how to say it without getting angry or crying. Any suggestions you can give me would be appreciated.

The PowerPhrase Expert: Clearly this is an issue for you, and it does need to be addressed—but without accusation or judgment. You need to communicate your feelings because, after all, that’s the crux of your issue.

The good news is that you’ve already identified your feelings, which is more than most people do! Most people are only aware of their judgments of the other person’s actions. You mention anger and frustration. My guess is that there are some other emotions in the mix, too. I suspect you are proud of being able to perform so well when ill and disappointed and hurt that your boss did not recognize this accomplishment.

Sometimes I handle a situation like this lightly. When an assistant watched a video of me speaking and didn’t offer a comment, I said, “Hey, you forgot to tell me that I was brilliant!”

In your case, however, you might be beyond levity, so one approach to resolving the issue might be to say, “I think you may not be aware of how sick I was on the business trip. I was proud of myself for being able to complete the trip and teach the class at all. Your opinion is important to me, and I was disappointed when I didn’t get any acknowledgment from you. Did you appreciate what I did?”

Usually expressing more vulnerable feelings gets the best results. You may want to express your anger and frustration, as well, but there is a higher risk of creating a rift with your boss when stronger feelings are discussed. Connecting with and assertively expressing vulnerable feelings is usually more effective in changing another person’s behavior. Just remind yourself that he isn’t a bad person—he was just a bit clueless in this situation.

Is it possible that you weren’t as clear about communicating your illness as you think you were? It’s worth being open to his feedback on how he interpreted your message, so you can get your point across more effectively in the future.

You mentioned that you do not want to get angry or cry during the discussion. Here’s a neat trick I learned many years ago that you may want to try. There’s an acupressure point in the webbing between your thumb and forefinger. If you press it, your tears will stop.

The best way to stay calm in talking to your boss is to practice with a friend beforehand. Practice, practice, practice—and play with what you’re saying and how you say it! My husband and I like to play with our emotionally charged situations by expressing ourselves in cartoon voices. Don’t do this with your boss! Just do it in practice, and you’ll stop taking yourself so seriously! After all, you did a great job against tough odds, and if someone else doesn’t appreciate that, you still know how good you are!

MERYL RUNION began her career by designing effectiveness measures for use by police departments all across the country. Runion has a master’s degree in the science of creative intelligence and is certified as a stress management expert. She is known as a speaker and author across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. You may contact her via e-mail at .

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