I make a point here of suggesting specific language for people to use in tricky situations — because I think often the language is the biggest sticking point for people. Sometimes you know that you need to deliver Difficult Message A or have Awkward Conversation B, but the hard part is figuring out exactly how to say it.
I make a point of suggesting language that I think people will feel comfortable saying and that will give them the best chance at the outcome they want, which generally includes not trashing their relationship with the other person.
Often that includes some kind of softening language. For example, in this post about a boss who’s an arm/shoulder toucher, I suggested saying,“Hey Bob, I’m weird about being touched on the arm or shoulder — I know you mean it warmly, but I’m just not a touchy-feely person.” Now, someone might argue that you shouldn’t have to say you’re weird for not wanting to be touched or to play it off like it’s your issue rather than his. And if we’re looking at it strictly logically, that’s true, and it’s certainly your prerogative to go with “do not touch me again” if that’s your style. But most people are going to find that pretty adversarial, and it’s likely to cause some tension in the relationship. Of course, you might argue that Bob is the tension causer, and you’d be right. But when there’s another option that will probably get the job done just as well while still preserving the relationship with someone you have to work with, I believe in starting there. You can always escalate from there if you need to.
And in addition to giving you a better chance at a good outcome (getting the behavior to stop and not causing tension in the relationship), this approach often makes it more likely that people will say something at all. Some people just absolutely will not say anything unless they can find language that they’re comfortable with. It can be the difference between “yes, that would work for me” or “there’s no way in hell I’d say that.” It’s no use for me to suggest language most people will never be willing to say. I’d rather they use a slightly softer message than not say anything at all.
There’s nothing wrong with taking the easiest, most effective route to getting the outcome you want, especially if that means that you speak up when you otherwise wouldn’t. Sometimes it won’t work and you’ll need to get more serious/tough/stern about it — but often you won’t even need to.