The ERASER Method

The E.R.A.S.E.R. Method
                                                              by Patti A. Wood

Do you need to tell an employee or co-worker to stop or change a behavior?
Is someone doing something that you know is incorrect, bad or just not the best way to do it? Are you upset, irritated or angry with someone in your business or personal life but you don’t know what to say? Are you frustrated because you'd like to tell them how you feel, but are not sure what to say or how it will be taken? The ERASER Method is a step-by-step process to create a script of your message and word it in such a way as to make it easy to give and easy to hear! You can avoid misunderstanding and lessen defensiveness in the receiver of your message. It prepares you for positive discussion and makes it possible to ERASE the offending behavior. Would you like to motivate your employees? Have a more positive work and home environment or be a better leader, friend or parent.  The ERASER Method can help you script out an effective message to change behavior.

We aren’t use to clearly stating what we want from people. We may avoid it, or we may yell in frustration, but clear communication isn’t’ the norm. Because it’s not easy to sit face-to-face with someone and say you don’t like something they’re doing so we take the easier route. We complain to someone else, “You won’t believe what Frank did.” We stuff it and grumble to ourselves and it comes out in other ways. Or we wait so long that we finally explode all over the person. The ERASER Method is the easiest way.

First you will learn how to use the ERASER Method to give effective criticism then you will get specific examples. Though you will learn all the steps in a particular order you may not need to use all the steps every time or use the same order every time, pick and choose what’s right for your situation.

The timing of a courageous conversation is important.  You want to say something as soon as the behavior occurs or as soon as you see a pattern of behavior. Waiting a week to tell someone she left the door to the office unlocked last Tuesday or waiting a month to tell someone he forgot to turn in a project on time has little positive effect. The closer the conversation is to the behavior the more likely it is to change.

As you begin to write your script don’t use it to unleash all your pent-up frustrations and complaints. Use the script to ask for a change in one offending behavior. If you wait and serve up a laundry list of complaints, the person you’re critiquing is certain to become defensive. Next, you must take an honest look and decide whether the behavior is their problem or yours. Or if what you want to say is worthy of bringing up. You may even find that after you work out what you want to say, that was enough. They don’t need to know.  First think about the behavior and decide if it is your problem or something that they really need to know and change.
If your employee comes in late to work and there are set work hours and their being late affects others, you have a valid reason to request they erase their lateness. If you don’t like that your co-worker who sits near you eats at their desk, but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone else it may just be your issue and not worth potentially effecting your working relationship. If your friend is rude to wait staff and it is offensive, you have every right to call them on their behavior but If your friend has diet issues and always talks to the waiter to make sure there is not gluten and it embarrasses you that may be their health issue and more about you changing how you view their need. If your boss raises his or her voice into a yell to give you commands, that may warrant a conversation.  If your teenager doesn't clean his/her room to your standards but it’s not really horrible, and it bothers you because you are embarrassed by what your houseguests might think, it may be your issue and not your teenager's. In other words, would it be OK if they just kept the door shut and kept the mold and fruit flies away?

If you decide to use the ERASER Method, begin by examining the person's behavior. Is there a pattern to it? Look at it as a journalist would a news story or a scientist would view a research study. Take out any emotion you may feel about their behavior in this first step.  Stand away, look objectively, and ask yourself, ``What is the behavior?'' ``When does the behavior occur?'' ``Where does the behavior occur?'' and, ``How often does the behavior occur?''

Exact           Express your concerns in exact terms. Don't use generalizations like, ``Every time you...'' or ``You never...'' or ``You always...'' Also, don't guess at or express an opinion as to why they do what they do. For example, ``If you weren't so busy with           , you would...''

                      Instead answer the following questions
                    What is the behavior?
                    When does it or when has it occurred”
                    Where does it occurred?
                    How often has it occurred?

Below are some examples of constructive ways to word your concerns:

                      ``Five times in the past three weeks, you have been at least 15 minutes late for work.''

                       ``I've noticed that the last four times you have taken a message for me, the full name of the caller and the phone number were not written down.''

Sometimes you may ask for a response back from the person such as
                    ``Is that accurate?'' Be careful about asking someone why they did what they did. It is almost certain to create defensiveness. You need to decide how much dialogue you want. If it's difficult for you to give this kind of message, you may need to ask the other person if you can go straight through the ERASER script and then talk about it.

STEP E Be Exact: Describe the offensive behavior on paper, then answer the ``W'' questions noted above regarding the behavior.

Result         After you've described the behavior, the person may still not understand why they should change their behavior. You may need to give them a result, i.e., tell them what happens as a result of the behavior.

                             ``When you are not at your desk at 9:00 a.m., Ann or Mike must take your calls and they cannot make their sales calls.''

                             ``Because I did not have a last name or phone number, I could not return the call and we lost a $10,000 booking.''

                      Remember when you were little and your mom asked you to do something? Didn't you almost always ask, ``Why, what makes this important?'' When we grow up, we still want to know.

STEP R Know the result. As yourself, ``What is the concrete result of the offending behavior?''

Aware  There are times when it's obvious from the steam escaping from your ears that the person's behavior is upsetting to you. Sometimes it is not so obvious, especially to the offending person. Clue them in. Notice what emotion their behavior arouses in you and communicate it to them.

                             ``When you are late, I feel anxious that the work won't be done.''

                             ``I was frustrated when I did not have a way of returning the call.''

                      Notice these statements are worded carefully. Absent are statements like, ``You made me angry.'' By using an ``I'' statement, you avoid arguments. No one can argue with an ``I'' statement. It's pretty difficult for someone to tell you how you do or don't feel about something. Your feelings are your feelings. There are times when this step is very significant.

                             For example, I once told two friends that I got upset when they teased me about my posture. They individually apologized and said they would stop. They didn't know it was bothering me. So, for them, knowing it bothered me was sufficient motivation for them to stop the behavior.

                      Granted, there are people who only need to know what really aggravates you to be motivated to continue the behavior! Fortunately, those people are rare. You might just as well skip this step with them. Why throw gasoline on the fire? You may need to have other forms of conversation with an individual who fits this mold.

STEP A Create awareness. When appropriate, state how you feel in response to their behavior.

Switch        If you've ever tried to stop a habit, you know how difficult it can be. Something that can make it easier is to replace the old, negative habit with a new, positive habit. This technique makes a return to the old habit less likely. So, why not help the offending person out by giving them a new, less offensive behavior to switch to. Suggest an alternative behavior that would work for you and for them!

                             ``I would like to see you sitting at your desk at 9:00 for the next three weeks.''

                             ``Could you please put the full name and phone number down on the pink slip?''

STEP S Switch the behavior. Suggest and recommend the behavior you would like to see occurring in place of the current offensive behavior.

Evidence    If you're concerned that the person may backslide into an old behavior, or it is critical that they do something a certain way, you may wish to add an evidence step to your script. Outline what will happen or stop happening as a result of the behavior modification. Support it with an expressed agreement as to what the change will look like. Perhaps you can give them a time frame when you will be observing the behavior, or a specific number of times you would like to see the behavior.

                             ``I would like to see you sitting at your desk at 9:00 a.m. for the next three weeks.''

                             ``Please try to completely fill out the pink slips for the next two days. See how people respond to your asking them to give their full name and telephone number?''

                      Remember, you may want to open up some dialogue here and ask them what the evidence would look like.

STEP E Evidence—establish and agree on the behavior change.

Reward      Some people are motivated by rewards; some are persuaded through the prospect of punishment. Think about what motivates the person you are talking to. Would it be helpful to give them a specific reward if they erase the old behavior and switch to a new one? What punishment could you present as a possibility if they don't? Caution—make sure it's something you absolutely, positively will do. If you won't carry through on this step, it's powerless. They must know you mean business.

                             ``If you are 10 minutes early for three weeks, you can leave at 4:00 p.m. the third Friday.''

                             ``If you take complete messages and it results in a booking this week, we'll go out to lunch on me.''

STEP R Reward good behavior.                                 

                      After you've finished your script, look it over and make sure all the necessary steps are included. Edit out any generalizations or ambiguous terms like ``good'' or ``bad.'' If it is difficult for you to give criticism, practice the ERASER script with a friend. Have them respond as the offending person might, and ask them for suggestions. If you're still nervous, it may help to preamble your conversation by telling them you are practicing a new method of communicating and solving problems. Then, do the most important part—deliver the communication! No communication—No result. Go for it and good luck!

                                                      The E.R.A.S.E.R. Method
                                                              Quick Reference

                                                              by Patti A. Wood

              Write out the script as if you were saying it out loud to the person.

Exact           Using exact terms, state the person's behavior as it exists now. Answer the following questions in your statement. Don't use generalizations such as, always, never, every time, and don't guess at why they do what they do.  What is the behavior? When the behavior occurs? Where did the behavior occur? How often did the behavior occur?

                      Example:    ``Seven times in the past three weeks, you have been at least 15 minutes late for work.''

Result         What is the concrete result of that behavior? What happens
                    because they do or don't do something?
                      Example:    ``When you are not at your desk at 9:00 a.m., Ann or Mike must take your calls and they cannot make their sales calls.''

Aware           Make the person aware of the emotion(s) the behaviors

Patti Wood, MA - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at