For many people, thinking of how the person might receive our message about their behaviour may stop us from saying anything.
For many people, thinking of how the person might receive our message about their behaviour may stop us from saying anything. iStock

Challenging behaviour needs an appropriate response

Human behaviour is fascinating isn't it? Potentially confusing, confronting, delightful, unkind or generous by turns, sometimes in the space of a few minutes, and the challenge is that we're not consciously aware of our own behaviour or its impact on those around us.

We talk a lot about behaviour in our work with groups and individuals, building their understanding around what drives it and the triggers that can cause us to react rather than respond. That's different for everyone, of course, because it's a combination of our unique life experience, values, beliefs, personality and myriad other aspects, and can be either effective or ineffective, working for or against us.

Think of a time when someone's behaviour irritated you. It might have been a one-off or perhaps it was a repetitive behaviour that aggravated you over time, and if you've experienced that, did you let them know about it?

How did that go? An unacceptable behavioural trait may seem inconsequential, but very often its impact is not.

Depending on our nature and our experience, we might be quite comfortable to tell the person about it. However, for many people, concern about how the person may receive our message may stop us from saying anything, even though it's troubling us. In a work context offering feedback could create problems depending on who is responsible for the behaviour and their nature and therefore their ability to take it as constructive and fair. What if it's your boss? On the other hand, what are the consequences of saying nothing?

It can be even more daunting outside the workplace. It may be your partner, sibling, child, best friend and therefore you may feel as though the potential risk outweighs any possible benefit. It is important though.

Ineffective or unacceptable behaviours wear us down over time and staying silent may cause us to erupt at a future point and our message will come out all wrong and much more likely to be poorly received.

What if it is your behaviour and someone brings it to your attention? How would you handle the feedback? Would you be defensive and push back or take it with good grace and adjust the behaviour?

Either way, poor behaviour left unchecked causes a negative ripple that can be contagious, so it's important and valuable to bring someone's behaviour to their attention provided it's done in a caring and supportive way. When we focus on the impact of their behaviour on us without making any judgment about the person, it's much easier to keep any emotion out of the message.

Remember that it's human and common to demonstrate ineffective behaviour at times, particularly if we are in a stressful situation, unwell or tired, and it's possible to bring it to our awareness in a supportive way to enable us to make a more effective choice.

Rowena Hardy is a facilitator and coach at