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But I Don't WANT to Rub Elbows

By Linda Larsen - Wednesday, January 30, 2019
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I got the opportunity recently to practice a technique that is very effective in dealing with, as I have laughingly called them, "People who don't behave."

First of all, here are the 4 things to do before you address the problem:

  1. Let go of the idea that the other person is WRONG for doing what he did. He did it. It's done. Hold, instead, the interpretation that although his actions don't work for you, they made perfect sense to him.
  2. Keep your voice level and calm.
  3. Maintain an open, relaxed face.
  4. Use as few words as possible. Think "short, simple and direct."

Picture the scene: We are boarding the plane. I sit on an aisle seat next to a man who is already seated in the center seat. His wife was on the other side of him, next to the window. I place my bag under the seat in front of me, buckle my seat belt and settle in for the flight. I notice that his elbow is firmly planted on the armrest between our seats so I gently slip my elbow behind his and claim the back section of the armrest.

It is at this point that he shifts his weight in his seat and makes certain that his elbow presses harder against mine. I'm talking quite hard. His nonverbal comment screamed, "Oh no you don't! I had this armrest first and you're not getting it!"

The passive part of me wanted to quickly remove my arm and then silently fume for the next hour. The aggressive part of me wanted to dig my elbow back into his arm and show him that he couldn't bully me, by gosh! Instead the assertive part of me stepped up to the plate and handled it GREAT! Incorporating all 4 of the above elements, I said, "I tell you what. I'll take the back half of the armrest and you take the front. Does that work for you?"

I sounded so even, unflappable and straightforward that I kind of stunned myself. Whatever the outcome I knew in that moment that I handled the situation effectively. And then, after a brief hesitation, he mumbled, "Yeah, I guess that's OK." Then he relaxed his arm and let me have half the space.

You gotta love it.

Practice this technique - a lot. In low-risk situations. With your dog, your cat, your unborn child. You'll get good at it. You'll develop a really good habit. And you'll be able to rub elbows with the best of them!


Linda Larsen, Speaker Hall of FameĀ® Keynote speaker, author and former professional comedic actress, brings entertaining, content-rich, hilarious and riveting presentations to conferences world-wide. She is passionate about helping people realize their fullest potential in every area of their lives and live with what she calls, "Honker Happiness." Best-selling author of 12 Secrets to High Self-Esteem audio program, 5 video programs and the critically acclaimed book, True Power. She can be reached at and 941-927-4700

About the Author

Linda Larsen, CSP, CPAE is a Hall of Fame Speaker, professional actress, best-selling author and serious lover of doggies. Linda speaks at conferences and meetings around the world, helping people bring the very best version of themselves to life every day! To talk to Linda about how she can contribute to the success of your next event, call 941-927-4700. Or go to Book Linda Now!

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