The DESC method – how to get somebody to change their behaviour:

Each month we will be sharing a “How to Tip” with you. These are golden nuggets we have gathered in our years of facilitator-led training interventions, we use them in our own lives, and yes, they do work.

This month we will look at how you get somebody to change a behaviour that is frustrating you.
When we are dealing with people, we cannot avoid the uncomfortable topic of CONFLICT. Some people run and hide when there is a hint of conflict in the air and others are always ready for a fight. Both of these ways are not helpful in the workplace and could permanently damage work relationships. We all need to find ways to deal with conflict in a positive way. Conflict has a lot of positive outcomes as well, if dealt with in a healthy manner. So, let’s have a look at one constructive way to get someone to change their behaviour without conflict.

The DESC method – to get somebody to change their behaviour:

D: Describe what they are doing that is the problem (Be factual).
E: Effect it is having on you (on your emotions or on your work).
S: Solution you want them to implement.
C: Consequences should they or should they not implement your solution. The consequences can be either good, (for example; we will be able to build trust) or bad (for example; I will report you to management).

Let’s look at a scenario; Carol is very unhappy at work lately. She feels her new manager Anna is rude and impatient, she never greets her or any of her colleagues and to make matters worse she has on a few occasions shouted at Carol in front of your colleagues.

Carol has had enough and decides to address it with your boss.

This is how it is used:

D: Anna, twice this week you shouted at me in front of my colleagues. Yesterday, you shouted at me for handing in my report late and today you shouted at me for taking too long in the bathroom.
E: I feel disrespected and humiliated when you shout at me in front of my colleagues.
S: Going forward I would appreciate if you call me into the boardroom to address any issue or problems in private.
C: I am sure we will build a great working relationship if we both feel respected.
(OR) If you are going to continue shouting at me in front of colleagues, you leave me no alternative but to lay a complaint with Human Resources.

A few suggestions:

1. Before you start “DESC’ing” your family and colleagues, write out your conversation and practise it a few times, so that you know exactly what it is you are going to say.
2. Did you notice in the D for Describe, I did not say, you always shout at me. Avoid the term always and never. Be factual give exact dates and times.
3. As tough as it may be, if you don’t follow through on your consequence, you are just nagging and nobody will take you seriously. Therefore, think carefully of a consequence. Don’t say I will report you to HR, if you have no intention of reporting the person to HR.

PS: The DESC method works wonders with kids too:

I tried it out on my 16-going-on-21-year-old daughter, who after being asked three times to do the dishes still did not do them.

D: You did not do the dishes, even though I asked you three times to do them.
E: I feel disrespected if you make me nag you and you still don’t do what I ask.
S: I would like you to stick to your chores and do the dishes directly after dinner each night.
C: That way we can all sit and watch a movie together. (good consequence). But I must warn you that next time you don’t do the dishes, I will be taking away your cell phone for 5 hours.

Please be aware, the teenager will sulk and tantrum – such is the nature of the beast. But after you took their cell phone once for 5 hours, they will not forget the dishes again.

A word of caution. I did not say, I will take your phone, I was very specific, I said for 5 hours. I also did not say for a week as I know that will never happen. But 5 hours is long enough for any teenager to really feel the consequences of their actions.

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