Case Study – How to stop irritating behaviour


Published: 4 Mar 2018

Compassionate Assertiveness

Compassionate assertiveness is an excellent way to corrective coach behaviour.

Recent cases students have brought to the table under this heading:

Husband who always takes his boots off outside, then walks out of his socks and leaves them in the hall, so the wife has been picking his socks up for the first few months they have been married.

Husband who always leaves the cupboard doors open when he goes into the kitchen to get something. The wife has been shutting the doors for around 10 years and veers between shouting at him, asking him when he is going to learn how to shut them, and then giving in and shutting them for him.

Husband who never fills the kettle up when he has made himself a cup of tea so every time the wife goes to make a drink there is no water. She thinks this is inconsiderate.

Wife who never puts the tea towel away when she has dried dishes and he has washed them.

Children who will use every dish in the cupboard and not do dishes.

A mother who has been picking up after her partner for years and now the son has demonstrated the same behaviour expecting his mother to bring things to him and pick up after him.

Family member who brought his own washing in off the line and left everyone else’s.

They may seem like innocuous events in an otherwise full life and relationship, but over time it is exactly these seemingly small things that drive people to the edge, make them portray less than desirable behaviour, work from a place of revenge, or do nothing and inwardly seethe.

These have been put under one case study as essentially they are the same ‘problem’ – one person thinking the other person is inconsiderate.

So how can compassionate assertiveness help with this?

Remember compassionate assertiveness always begins with “Does this work for me?” If it doesn’t then you have to say it if you have seen it. If it’s not a big deal then could you let it go?

Remember also that communication is almost always about perception. It is relative. What is on one person’s radar may not be on another’s. However just because a person thinks it’s not a problem doesn’t mean you have to agree.

The basics of compassionate assertiveness are based on:

  • Low and slow – you will remain calm and low slow voice – not heated or loud, sarcastic or contemptuous
  • You will look for the win-win where possible, look to cooperate and collaborate not be in competition, vengeful or win at all costs.
  • If you have seen it, then you will say it. If you cannot then you have invited it in and have to decide how long that is acceptable to you.
  • You will be clear – use language that is not invisible, strengthen sentences with certain words and their name, and use body language to direct your intentions.
  • You will be concise – no twiddly bits, justifications, sorry, or elaborate stories, no dragging up past regressions. Lead with the facts or need.
  • You will be concrete – you will not walk away until you have agreed what you have agreed upon and locked it in, otherwise you leave yourself open to future liability or repercussions.

So where to begin?

Well, by the time people are revealing these kind of things it has normally reached critical mass. Partners are not talking to each other, or they are shouting at each other. The one who feels affronted withdraws something – affection, words, cooking, sex, other chores they would normally do. It is not pretty.

Worse still are the people who have learned to just live with it and accept the behaviour. They are asked: “Ok, you have been dealing with this for 10 years with no resolution. Do you intend to stay married?” They of course say yes. I then calculate how long they will likely be married for and then say “Ok, you maybe  have another 35 years left together. Can you put up with this for 35 years or do you want to correct it?

This is a pivotal point in the compassionate assertive cycle, because at this point they have a clear choice. They can let it go. Really let it go, never to return to it. Do whatever the task is in a spirit of unconditional love from that point forward and in consideration of all the other amazing things they are as a person.

If they cannot do that then they have to take action. Over time these small things diminish love, and what starts off as a strong hefty rock, gets chipped away with each resentment until all you have left is a series of small stones in your hand and a decision on whether to hang to the last ones tightly or open your palm and let them fall away.

If you decide to corrective coach then begin with stage one of the Compassionate Assertiveness in Action© model:

Ask an open question that flips them into a state of self-analysis but beware of adding on the extra words and gestures that turn it from compassionate assertiveness into something else. Closed questions are not an option if you are correcting behaviour.

So let’s use the socks as an example.

You could try:

#1 “Is there a reason you leave you socks in the hall?” This is merely an inquiry, non-aggressive, but they could just answer yes or no in which case you will need to question further.

#2 ” Kevin. Why do you leave your socks in the hall?” Making it personal. Clear that it is unusual.

#3 “Explain to me why your socks are always in the hall Kevin?’ Always is an aggressive stance, as is the use of the word explain. Imagine this with the addition of jabby, pointing body language and it looks quite different to #1

Depending on the response you will have to decide what to do next but in general the worse the behaviour or words back to you, you will remain in stage 1, and make the questions more forceful, using their name on the beginning or end, and avoiding invisible questions  like “if you have time, I’d appreciate.” Would it be possible…” If you could……”

So a follow up to a response of “It’s just not on my radar sorry.” might be countered with.

“I didn’t realise that, but you will need to pick them up in future please.” Keeps it in their responsibility not yours

This sounds quite different to “that’s ok, but I’m not going to do it for you in future.”

A follow up response of ” It’s not a big deal, why are you making a fuss?” Might be countered with a stage 2 (Feelings) response – “How do you think it makes me feel when I do this for you?” If you alter that by even a few words add in ‘have’ to do that for you,  and ‘do this EVERY day for you’, it becomes “how do you think it makes me feel when I have to do this for you every day?”

It changes the intention and makes it accusatory. The intention with stage 2 is a second opportunity to get the person to self- analyse their behaviour towards you and understand how that might not work for you.

A follow up response of ” I’ll leave them where I like, get over it.” Might be countered by a stage 3 (consequences) response. ” Ok, I’ll leave you to pick them up then in future. You may run out of socks after a few days.” As opposed to “Well, I’m not picking them up any more for you, you deserve to run out, I’m not doing it any more.”

You would rarely need to use stage four in corrective coaching and stay away from stage two if the behaviour is abusive or aggressive towards you, stay in stage 1 and 3.

Be aware that if you invoke stage 3 then you need to carry out the consequence. i.e. leave it until there are no socks, no clean dishes etc. If you go back to your old behaviour then they will go back to theirs and you will need to re-set the corrective coaching from the beginning.


Give it a go.  Feedback on what you are dealing with.




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