Deal with Difficult People / strategies for dealing with difficult people

How to tell someone their behaviour is unacceptable: the FEWER script

Being Diplomatically Assertive is the key

Sometimes we need to tell someone their behaviour wasn’t acceptable – what they did was against the rules, was unfair, was rude or whatever.

Or their work wasn’t as good as it should have been – they were late with their work or didn’t do it at all, or their work simply wasn’t of the quality expected.

And it’s not not just something we might have to do at work. It’s something we might also have to do at home, at our community or sports club, or at a social affair.

When we tell them, we want to get the best possible result for all concerned. We want them to change their behaviour – and maybe make amends as well. But we also want to look good.

So when we tell them, we need to be clear and upfront – what we commonly call being assertive. But we also need to be polite – impeccable even. And not just be polite. But be seen to be polite as well – by the person we’re speaking to, and by anyone else who might overhear or be present such as a ‘support person’.

When we combine these two, we are being what I call Diplomatically Assertive.

The FEA script and the FEWER® script fit the bill

I have two Diplomatically Assertive strategies which are particularly useful for telling someone their behaviour is not acceptable and needs to improve. They are:

  1. The FEA script – for telling the person their behaviour wasn’t acceptable and for asking them to work with us to solve the problem.
  2. The FEWER script – for telling the person their behaviour wasn’t acceptable and telling them what behaviour we want from them.

They’re in Group 5 (Give it to them straight) in my list of strategies for dealing with bad behaviour and difficult people. You can get the full list here.

This article is about the FEWER script. And the following video gives a brief overview of it. You’ll be pleased to know it’s short and it has captions (in case you want to watch it without the sound). Below the video is a brief outline of the FEWER script.

A short video with captions: An overview of the FEWER script

A summary of the FEWER script

F = Facts

Tell them the facts – and the facts only  about the behaviour, incident etc that is the cause of your concern.

Example:  “Carol, that’s the second time this week you’ve come late to work.”

E = Explain

Tell them the behaviour is a problem, is unacceptable, is unsatisfactory, is against the rules, etc.

Example: “Carol, coming late to work is not satisfactory. You need to be at work on time every day.’

W = Want

Tell them what behaviour you want from them now or in the future.

Example: “I want you to be at work and ready for work, by 9am every day.” 

E = Explain

Tell them why doing what you want will benefit them, benefit the organisation, will be a good thing, etc.

Example: “If you’re here on time from now on, it’ll be great. Not only will your fulfil your work contract, other staff won’t have to cover for you.”

R = Rewards

Tell them what rewards – if appropriate and if there are any – they might get for doing what you want. And tell them what penalties – again, if appropriate and if there are any – there might be if they fail to do what you want.

Example: “Carol, if you come to work on time from now on, I’ll consider this matter closed. However, if you come to work late again, I will treat it as a very serious matter and I will decide what further action I need to take.”

If you’d like to know more or …

… you’re just up for a chat, please don’t hesitate top get in contact.

All the very best, Mark.




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