Overcoming Inertia

There is a whole host of different ways to be passive. Here, you can look at four such ways, and how you can respond to get the most out of the person you are working with.

Tentative agreement

Here, the individual seems to go along with a proposal, not because they think it's achievable or even desirable but simply because they don't want conflict or they want to please you.

Key verbal clues include: "Oh I suppose so."

  • say what you hear
  • try to find out, there and then, if there is a problem.

Unwilling to state preference 

Here, the individual may well want to do something but doesn't want the responsibility of taking any decision. They may well have a preference, but simply won't say what it is. Key verbal clues include:

  • "I don't mind, honestly."
  • "Whichever. You know best."

If individuals are unwilling to state a preference, don't assume they haven't got one. Almost certainly they have. So, keep asking them for their choice until they give one.

Putting self down (I'm not OK)

Here, it may be the case that the individual does lack a skill or ability, but they exaggerate it (I'm not OK).

This may be to avoid doing something, or it may be a case of 'getting your criticism in first'. Key verbal clues include:

  • "Hopeless, aren't I?"
  • "A right mess I made of that, eh?"

If individuals put themselves down, counter their exaggerations with a more realistic, matter-of-fact assessment. Don't over-praise.

If there are issues, don't sweep them under the carpet. Raise them and try to resolve them.

Flattering others (I'm not OK, You're OK)

Here, putting oneself down (I'm not OK) is enhanced by complimenting others (You're OK).

Their aim here is to avoid criticism or taking on a task. They leave the task to the individual they complement. Key verbal clues include:

  • "You make that look so easy. Me, I mess it up every time."
  • "She's so good with people. I simply don't have the patience."

The key thing about the flattery approach is simply to ignore the flattery. Focus exclusively on their statement about themselves. Try to find out the facts, if there are any, behind that statement. Your aim is to get the relationship to a state of I'm OK, You're OK.


Tip! Self-awareness

The first step in overcoming passive inertia is being aware of the effect that it (the other peroson's inertia) can have on you. Think about the person you're going to deal with. Do they make you aggressive or passive? Think and then make a conscious plan to avoid that reaction. So, if the individual gets you angry by constantly making excuses, think about simply focussing on helping the individual work round the excuses. Ideally, the aim of the interaction should always be to:

  • avoid any emotional blackmail
  • get at the issues
  • get the other person to communicate assertively.
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