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
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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .