Managing Difficult Conversations: Fair, Friendly, but Firm

Written by Rachel Stewart-Dziama |

My father has a system when it comes to managing those challenging conversations that are just a part of life. Along with a liberal amount of politeness, he always attempts to be fair, friendly, but firm.

When working to avoid single-use plastics, it can be easy to lose your cool. I have been there, exasperatedly bickering with the barista about why I really do want her to use my reusable mug.

In an attempt to avoid single-use plastics and remain civil, I have taken a page out of my father’s play book and have begun to employ the fair, friendly, but firm principals.


1. Fair

Bring reusable alternatives for the single-use plastic products you are trying to avoid. Many businesses are designed around using plastic and do not have an alternative to give you. Additionally, if you ask for something out of the ordinary, like for the deli to use your container instead of plastic wrap, and they decline citing company policy – writing to management or taking your business elsewhere is fairer than becoming frustrated with an employee who probably has nothing to do with the policy.

2. Friendly

When you ask for no plastic cutlery, or for a clerk to pack into your reusable bags, or you decline your dentist’s plastic toothbrush, be polite about it. The people with whom you are interacting are just doing their jobs. Making your request with kindness and consideration can ease the fact that someone may now need to go out of their way. It may also turn the interaction into a teachable moment rather than an argument.

3. Firm

Stand your ground. If you do not want a straw, ask for no straw. You can be passionate about the cause of giving up single-use plastic! North America is designed around using plastic, trying to avoid it means you are occasionally going to feel like you are swimming upstream. But that is okay. The sum of all those little challenging moments is real, significant, change. As long are you are fair and friendly in your interactions, stand firm behind your principals.

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