First Situation


SITUATION: You have been trying to contact Susan. You have left numerous messages, but have received no response. How do you handle?

OUTCOME DESIRED: You want to talk to Susan about an important matter, and you don’t want to appear to be a pest.

OTHER PERSON’S VIEW: Maybe she knows she will be unable to accommodate your request so she doesn’t see any reason to contact you back. She is out of the office or on vacation. She is simply bad about returning messages. She may not want to deal with the matter and is avoiding it.

BEST PHRASED: When you leave voice mail be specific, "Hi Susan, This is Anne Warfield from Impression Management Professionals. I am just calling to touch base with you about______(list what it is here). I will be in the office the rest of the day today. Thursday I will be available from 9-11:30 and then from 3 PM on. On Friday I will be in all day. I look forward to hearing from you. If I don’t connect with you by Friday, I will give you a call first thing on Monday. Take care."

If Susan really wants to talk with you, she will be grateful to know when she can get in touch with you. If she is avoiding you, then the above message let’s her know she can’t pretend to have called and was unable to reach you. It lets her know you will be back in contact, so your next phone call doesn’t seem pesky. I recommend only leaving two voice mails. After that don’t leave any messages, just try calling again and again until you get a live person.

Second Situation


SITUATION: Dear Anne, I have been accused of being too aggressive at work. I am really confused by what people mean by this. I think I am being assertive. I have a tendency to speak my mind at meetings and I don’t necessarily sugarcoat things when I disagree. Shouldn’t others just speak up if they disagree or do I have to alter myself in order to "fit in"?

OUTCOME DESIRED: You want to get along with people at work. You want to be viewed as a positive and strong person, not someone that sits on the fence and is wishy-washy.

HOW TO HANDLE: This can be a frustrating position to find yourself in. Many people have a hard time distinguishing between aggressive and assertive. Let’s start there. Assertive is putting forward positively and with confidence your thoughts and ideas, even in the face of adversity. Aggressive is putting forward your thoughts and ideas in a combative readiness state.

The difference between the two is that being assertive allows others to see where you clearly stand BUT also allows them to feel justified in having an opinion or thought that differs. While being aggressive comes off as it is "your way or the highway" and can often make others feel "wrong" to have an opinion that differs from yours.

So how can you tell the difference?

If you are being aggressive, people will remain silent after you talk or they will move right to arguing with you. If you are a manager, you will shortly find yourself surrounded by "yes" people. If you are assertive, people will be thoughtful, ask questions and challenge you but you will rarely see them square their shoulders, lift their chin and stare defiantly at you.

Also, if you fall in to the "aggressive category" you most likely are a Producer. Producers desire to have control over their area and at times inflict themselves on others inappropriately.

BEST ACTION: Take a quick assessment. At meetings, are you the first to speak up? Do you often interrupt others? Do you make body signs that show you disagree with another person?

(These body signs would include grunting, tapping a pen, shuffling papers while the other person is talking, rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, looking away, glaring or crossing your arms)

If you do, try: listening with your head titled to one side as this will increase your listening and make the other person feel accepted and not judged.

  • asking for others opinions BEFORE offering your own
  • offering your thoughts and ideas prefaced by "what if we…" or "could we look at if from…" "I was thinking…" This will allow others to take in what you are saying without feeling shut off.
  • if you disagree with someone, "Tell me this…" "how does that fit with…" "can you share with me how…" "I understood that we were trying to do… and if that is true then, how does….."

Third Situation


SITUATION: You have worked hard on a client’s project. They have continually delayed responding to your requests for information and have been very bad about returning phone calls. The project is off course and will take longer than originally projected. On top of that, they are making changes that now throw your cost way off. How do you handle?

OUTCOME DESIRED: You want the customer to see you as cooperative and competent. You don’t want to be taken advantage of.

OTHER PERSON’S VIEW: They might not realize they are being difficult. They may be prepared to pay more but you haven’t ever brought it up. They want a good working relationship and the best product possible.

BEST PHRASED: "I realize things may have changed since we first started this project. I would like to take some time to reassess at what we have done and where you would like to go with this project. We should also revisit the cost since some of the changes you wish to make were not reflected in the first cost. With that in mind, let me know if you want to keep the changes or not. Also, let me know how you would like me to handle all changes in the future. Do you want me to fax them back along with the cost?" Once you have agreed to everything mention, "One thing that would really help the timing of the project is to be able to get an answer from someone within twenty-four hours. George, would it still be best to contact you or do you have a back up person? Also are there other numbers or e-mail I can use to reach you?"

Fourth Situation


SITUATION: An employee under your supervision is chronically negative. No matter what you say, she always seems to say the exact opposite. Every job you assign her seems to require so much effort. She does complete things in time, but the negativity is getting to you. Her work is impeccable.

OUTCOME DESIRED: You want a pleasant office to work in. You want an atmosphere that is charged with "I can" rather than "I can’t".

OTHER PERSON’S VIEW: She doesn’t see herself as negative, merely practical. She doesn’t feel she is appreciated so she feels she must point out all she does, in detail, so you know how much work you are giving her. This makes her feel acknowledged. She wants some control and she feels this gives it to her.

BEST PHRASED: First of all, always acknowledge the work she does do. Let her know she is appreciated and then hold her accountable for her attitude. Say, "Renee, I want to take some time to talk about how we can ease some of the stress in the office. I am really impressed with the quality of your work. You are always very detailed and exact in all you do.

Because each project I hand to you is met with resistance upfront, I feel you might not see that I appreciate what you do, or that I am just giving you projects without realizing the details involved.

I really want us to work in a positive environment where we both feel appreciated by each other. What can I do to make it easier to maintain a positive attitude at the office about projects?"

Then let her talk. Find out what she needs from you. Once it is agreed on then set up a plan of how you will each flag the other if things go off track.

For example, let’s say she tells you she feels rushed when you go over projects and doesn’t feel you know what else she is working on. You might agree to touch base with her weekly so you are aware of what she is working on. Pause after you give her a project so she can ask any questions she may have.

Remember to stay patient through that process. Agree to it and then say, "I will agree to slow down and answer any questions you have about a project I pass off to you and you will agree to be more positive about the assignments. If either of us gets off track, let’s quickly point it out so we stick to this. Thanks, Renee."

As the leading Outcome Strategist, Anne Warfield shows people how to say the right thing at the right time every time.  The revolutionary Outcome Focus® Approach shows how to build a candid corporate culture of communication that allows you to lead, present and negotiate transformationally rather than transactionally. When applying Outcome Thinking® our client’s results include sales cycles reducing by 75%, turnover reducing by 30%, silos evaporating, and a 25% savings of time by executives.  Find out how you can maximize your corporate culture for greater productivity and results!  Contact us at 888-imp-9421, visit,  or