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Ignoring can help you get a solution

I was flicking through a book the other day and a strategy that was in it gave me one of those ‘yes, I have done that’ moments. Because I had not included this as a strategy in my book I thought I should share it here. The author Bill Rogers called it tactical ignoring. It refers to concentrating on one behaviour while ignoring others on purpose.
Imagine you have asked someone to complete a task which they have then not completed. You give them some feedback about this with an I-message like “I feel disappointed when I ask people to complete a task and they do not do it.” The response is rolling eyes, muttering under the breath and body language that shows a lack of respect. This response does very little to improve the situation or your mood. But you have two choices at this point.

You can respond to the lack of respect or you can continue to focus on the issue that started this all - the lack of completing the task. It would be understandable to start to focus in on the lack of respect but does that get the real issue resolved? So with tactical ignoring you would continue to focus on having the person complete the task and ignore the respect issue for the time being. You can come back to that later. This of course will depend on the situation and things like the level of disrespect shown, etc.

I think one of the reasons this strategy is important is so you do not become diverted from what was the original behaviour that needed to change. It can be quite easily just to focus on this second issue and the initial reason for taking action gets totally forgotten. Especially when your emotions start to build.

That does not mean you have to forget about the secondary behaviour, that can be always addressed as well. But sometimes it is better to work on one issue at a time. So focussing on the task completion could be your key aim. Or you might want to quickly address the second issue and move straight back to the first issue. This ensures the person does not ‘get away’ with the disrespectful behaviour. “That type of body language shows a lack of respect and makes me feel angry. But right now I want to concentrate on why the task has not been competed.”

The book I was referring to is Bill Rogers - Classroom Behaviour: A Practical Guide to Effective Teaching, Behaviour Management and Colleague Support. (Third Edition), 2011, SAGE Publications, London
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