Christy Crump explains how to use a FIRR to change a behavior or encourage improvement

Sometimes we find it necessary to have difficult conversations. Perhaps we need to address a behavior that must be changed or a problem that must to be improved.  These types of conversations are hard, because we are unsure how the other person will react.  Many times, people become defensive when confronted about their behavior or a problem. According to Marshall Rosenberg in Nonviolent Communication, a FIRR is a nonthreatening way to discuss an issue with someone about changing a behavior or drawing someone’s attention to a necessary improvement.

What is a FIRR?

F = State the FACTS of the situation using the phrase, “I’ve noticed…”

I = Tell the IMPACT of the action or behavior using the phrase, “What happens is…”

R = Show RESPECT. Give the benefit of the doubt, and show respect for the situation using the phrase, “I respect…or I understand…”

R = REQUEST a change in the action or behavior. Offer advice using the phrase, “Here are some options…”

For a FIRR to be effective, follow this formula:

  • Script the FIRR. Anticipate rebuttals and have a response ready. See examples below.
  • Practice the scripted FIRR – when you practice, you gain confidence in delivering the FIRR. When you are confident in delivering your message, it is often better received.
  • Deliver the FIRR in private. Don’t embarrass someone by correcting them in public. The exception to this is if the conversation is one of a personal nature or that could be misconstrued from a Human Resources perspective. In that case, be sure to have a witness in the room when delivering the FIRR.

Example #1

Mary, I’ve noticed that you use terms of endearment with our patients such as “dear” and “sweetie.”  (Fact is stated with phrase, “I’ve noticed…”)

What happens when you use those terms is the office seems less professional than if you are using “sir, ma’am, Mr., Ms.”  (Impact of action was explained with phrase “What happens is…”)

Having been raised in the south, I understand that “dear” and “sweetie” are the southern vernacular and charm we grew up with, but those terms give the impression of small, southern town, local doctor’s office. The image that Dr. Jackson is trying to project is one of a professional, high-class medical facility.  (Respect is shown with phrase, “I understand…”)

I also understand that it is hard to break the habit of using terms of endearment, but some options are every time you speak with someone on the phone and in person, to call them by their name, Mr. Smith or Ms. Johnson or if you are answering a question, you can say, “Yes, sir”, or “No, ma’am.”  That is still very respectful in our southern ways but cuts out the personal “dear” and “sweetie.” (A request to change the behavior is made with the phrase, “Some options are…”)

The outcome of the above FIRR was that within one week, terms of endearment were replaced with Mr. and Ms. The problem was addressed in a nonthreatening manner. Mary did not become defensive, and the behavior was changed as the doctor wanted it to be.

Example #2

Mr. Johnson, I’ve noticed that you require constant feedback and updates from me on my daily work and projects.  What happens is every time I stop and give you feedback and updates, I lose my train of thought and that causes me to not work as efficiently and effectively as I could for you and the company.  I respect and understand that in order to report to your supervisor, you must be on top of things at all times, and you depend on me to give you that information.  I would like to suggest that we schedule regular meetings at 8, 11, 1, 3, and 5 every day.

The outcome of the above FIRR was that within two weeks, Mr. Johnson reduced from five updates per day to three. Two weeks later, the meetings were reduced to 8 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. Mr. Johnson felt comfortable with the information he was being provided, and his assistant had fewer interruptions throughout her day.

Next time you need to have a difficult conversation, try following the above outline and suggestions. You will find it much more beneficial and pleasant than a confrontational encounter.

Christy Crump has 20 years of experience in high-level administrative positions and five years as founder and president of Crump & Associates, a training and professional development company with a client list including Fortune 500 companies. In ... (Read More)

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