“He did it AGAIN!” groaned Miranda as she threw her phone. Fortunately, the phone bounced. Miranda’s mood didn’t recover quite so well.
For weeks, she had been planning her first date since the divorce. Never expecting to get involved again, she found herself looking forward to an evening out. An evening where she could relax and enjoy herself. Where someone else might just take care of her.
Now, with only an hour to spare, Joe cancelled picking up the children. Something about work running over. Work ALWAYS seemed to “run over” when it was his turn to pick up the children from school or for his parenting time. As Miranda found herself constantly scrambling to reschedule appointments or cover rides, stress mounted. This was the final straw. As she called her date to cancel, Miranda couldn’t wait for Joe to arrive. He was going to get it!
Everyone reading this post can likely relate to Miranda’s frustration. You can also predict what happens when Miranda unloads on Joe. Though she might enjoy unleashing her anger, that probably won’t get Joe to show up on time. How about an approach that might?
Instead of exploding as Joe comes through the door, what if Miranda engaged Joe in a calm, reasoned discussion? Here’s how that might look:
Miranda–Joe, thank you for calling to tell me you were going to be late. I appreciate the notice. But, I missed plans I had made because the girls weren’t picked up on time. This seems to happening more often. When we make a plan, I’d appreciate it if you came on time.
- Miranda begins by recognizing what Joe did right. Nothing softens an approach (or throws a defensive person off their attack) like appreciation.
- Miranda frames her concern with an “I”–statement. “I missed plans because. . .” Rather than going on the attack against Joe’s action, Miranda concretely shares the impact on her. She then supports the concern by framing it as a growing pattern rather than an isolated incident. If Joe comes back with “It’s not happening more often,” Miranda can offer a couple of concrete instances where it has. She can also include the accommodations she had to make. By avoiding the phrase “you’re always late” and sticking to concrete examples and their consequences, Miranda gains credibility.
- Miranda gives a concrete statement of what she wants–Joe to arrive on time.
By keeping a calm, rational tone Miranda frames the discussion around the crucial issue–Joe’s tardiness. She avoids slamming his character by (calling him a lazy bum) or assuming his motives (“You’re just trying to mess up my date!”). By sticking to the key issue, Miranda forces Joe to focus on his behavior rather than responding to wild charges. Joe must either be on time or explain why he refuses to be on time. Most people want to be seen as credible and responsible, so the narrow framing works to Miranda’s advantage.
Should Joe argue the point–or continue the pattern in future visits–Miranda can take it to the next level. She can concretely define what she will do if he’s late again. “Joe, please be on time. The next time we schedule a pick up, if you are late, I will have a babysitter waiting with the girls for which you will have to pay.” Again, calm firmness wins the day–Joe can choose to be on time or pay. Either way, Miranda gets to go on her date.