Fogging, What and Why? - [website] Email Print
Published: 24th of Feb 2023 by: Debbie Engelbrecht

No this is not an excuse for an expletive! Fogging is a tool we use to teach assertiveness and conflict management. Essentially fogging is a great weapon in your arsenal of emotional intelligence. To explain it we will start by explaining what defensiveness is...

When we are defensive we are reacting to "triggers". These are statements that we somehow internalize and which we have a very negative connotation to. We take the statement personally as opposed to seeing all the alternatives for that statement being made.

For example: If I were to tell Einstein that he doesn't understand the theory of relativity, Einstein (with the rest of the world), would most likely simply laugh at that statement and find it truly amusing.

However, if I were to tell "Joe Soap" who fancies himself as a layman's physics boffin that he doesn't understand the theory of relativity, he is likely to defend his knowledge and sometimes by extension, even himself as a person, against that statement. He would likely try to justify to me that he has spent the larger part of his adult life reading and learning all about science. Right? Essentially then my statement would have triggered "Joe Soap"

The reality is that just because a statement is being made it makes it neither true nor false. It is how we react to what has been said that then often takes the conversation on a tangent that nobody had anticipated and that could lead to conflict, a lack of assertiveness from either party and/or even passive aggression. None of these would be necessary if we understand and use Fogging...

So what are the different viewpoints that could be taken on a statement such as: Maybe you could have put in more effort?

1. The person saying it is 100% correct
2. The person saying it is 100% incorrect
3. The person saying it is partially correct. Whether it is 1% effort you missed or 99%.
4. The person saying it is saying it to the wrong audience altogether
5. The person saying it does not understand the full mandate and the time it would take

Plus, I am pretty sure you can come up with some additional alternatives.

Now, Fogging simply allows for the fact that there are almost always alternatives and life is indeed a journey of trying to figure out what these are. But we cannot do that without great communication and a huge number of facts on the table. Yet, we fall short on this last step a huge amount of the time...

Fogging acknowledges that the person in the example above may or may not have a valid point and that you, who is emotionally more intelligent, do not have to allow this person's statement to trigger you... You could choose to rather spend your time productively, getting to the bottom of what the problem with the task is. Or even if there is none, as let's face it item 2 above allows for the fact that the person is 100% incorrect and that the task is perfect as is, to communicate your way through it...

If you are interested in learning how to use tools such as Fogging, Saying No, Assertive Expression and more, why not join us for our next Assertiveness Training.

© Debbie Engelbrecht 2023
Debbie is the MD at Staff Training, providing soft skills and leadership training for South Africans since 2000. Should you wish for Staff Training to put together an annual training package for you covering aspects of management, wellness and self-mastery, please email

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