The PPFC formula – dealing with difficult people and sensitive situations

One of my FAQs from clients goes something like this:

The performance/behaviour of Person A is causing a problem – how should I deal with this?”

In this context, Person A can be a team member, a patient, a supplier, the Boss(!) – in fact, anybody who is making your life more difficult because of what they are doing or the way they are doing it.

There is a standard and classic way to deal with this that comes from the camp of Transactional Analysis; I call it the PPFC conversation:





To explain, let’s imagine that you have had a report about a team member who is consistently late for work. This is causing tension in the team as the manager has asked Person A to “shape up” but to no avail – other team members are noticing and wondering why “she is allowed to get away with it.”

All a very potent mix for trouble.

So let’s ask for a meeting with the potential offender and use the PPFC formula:

  • Permission – “Do I have permission to have a very direct conversation with you?”
  • Perception – “My perception is that you are regularly arriving at work later than your contracted start time.”
  • Feelings – “What I’d like to do is explain how that is making me feel. I’m upset that you are not observing the terms of our contract to work together, that other team members are unsettled by this and that you are missing important aspects of our daily huddle, designed to make the day run smoothly and effectively.”
  • Change – “So what I’d like you to change going forward is to make whatever adjustments that are necessary to your morning routine to ensure that you arrive on time.”

I’ve been using the PPFC formula since the 1990’s to deal with all sorts of situations, both personally and professionally.

Permission is rarely refused and, if so, often indicates an irretrievable breakdown in communication from which there is no solution. If granted, you are free to speak.

Perception allows for the fact that you may have got it wrong – you have either been supplied with the wrong information or you are interpreting the data incorrectly.

Feelings are about YOU and not judgemental about the other person (which can only create a defensive wall).

Change establishes the agreement going forward.

PPFC has been a trusted friend for many years and has helped me and my clients deal with some tough situations.


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Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

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