Perhaps one of the most vital ways to sidestep hassles and to become more sought-after is to strengthen your capacity to stay cool when under fire. For starters, discover how can you make someone feel heard and respected – and cool off — when they start acting hostile, blaming or worse.
Here are some behavioral “tools” to add to your “toolbox” for the next time someone is upset and taking it out on you. None will work all the time, and some will work better for your personality style than others:
When others begin to act “hot,” we instinctively tend to either:
1. Escalate: Become like them and get loud, use more negative language, act hostile, or other mimicking reactions
2. Withdraw: Adopt a poker or resentful face, quiet down, walk out, hang up or otherwise exit the situation.
Either approach gets us out of balance. Both are self-protective but self-sabotaging reactions. These approaches are akin to saying, “I don’t like your behavior — therefore I am going to give you more power.” Instead, slow everything down: your voice level and the speed, jerkiness and frequency of your body motions.
Be aware that you are feeling a hot reaction to the other person. Instead of dwelling on your growing feelings, move to a de-escalating action and leave room for everyone, especially the person in the wrong, to save face and self-correct.
Hint: Don’t let somebody else determine your behavior
Instead Take the Three-Step, “Three A’s” Approach
1. Acknowledge that you heard the person, followed by a pause. That buys time for you both to cool off. You might genially nod.
Or you can give a verbal acknowledgment that does not involve:
• Taking sides: “I understand you have a concern” rather than “You shouldn’t have…”
• Or involve Blaming or “bad labeling” language (“Let’s discuss what would work best for us both now” rather than “That was a dumb . . .) that pours hot coals on the heat of escalation and hardens the person into their position.
2. Ask for more information so you both can cool off more and you can find some common ground based on her or his underlying concerns or needs.
Try to “warm up” to the part of the person you can respect — focus on it mentally and refer to it verbally: “You are so dedicated” or “knowledgeable” or whatever their self-image is that leads them toward rationalizing their behavior.
3. Add your own, potentially mutually beneficial thoughts. Say, perhaps, “May I tell you my perspective?” This sets them up to give you permission to state your view.
Nobody wants to be told they are wrong. Whenever you have reason to believe someone is lying or not making sense, you will not build rapport by pointing it out to them. Allow them to save face and keep asking questions until you lose imagination or control.
Say, for example, “How does that relate to the . . .” (then state the apparently conflicting information). You might find you were wrong, and thus you “save face.” Or, by continued non-threatening questions, you can “softly corner” the other person into self-correcting, which protects your future relationship.
Speak to Their Positive Intent, Especially When They Appear to Have None
Our instincts are to look for the ways we are right and others are….less right. In arguing, as the momentum builds, we mentally focus on the smart, thoughtful, and “right” things we are doing, while obsessing about the dumb, thoughtless, and otherwise wrong things the other person is doing. This tendency leads us to take a superior or righteous position, get more rigid, and listen less as the argument continues.
Difficult as you might find it, try staying mindful of your worst side and their best side as you find yourself falling into an escalating argument. You will probably be more generous and patient with them, and increase the chances that they will see areas where you might be right after all.
Dump Their Stuff Back in Their Lap
If someone is verbally dumping on you, do not interrupt, counter, or counterattack in midstream, or you will only prolong and intensify their comments. When they have finished, ask “Is there anything else you want to add?”
Then say, “What would make this situation better?” or “How can we improve this situation in a way you believe we can both accept?”
Ask them to propose a solution to the issue they have raised. If they continue to complain or attack, acknowledge you heard them each time and, like a broken record, repeat yourself in increasingly brief language variations: “What will make it better?”
Do not attempt to solve problems others raise, even if they ask for advice– they might make you wrong. People will spend more time proving their way works best than using a method suggested by someone else, even someone we love or like. It’s only human.
5 Tips for Reaching Better Agreements That Can Strengthen Rather Than Sap the Relationship
1. If you embarrass someone while trying to reach an agreement, you might never have that person’s full attention again.
2. Even and especially when you have the upper hand, do not make a victim of the underdog.
3. Offering something free and valued up-front, unasked, often implants the desire to reciprocate, even beyond the value of the offer.
4. Problems seldom exist at the level at which they are discussed. Until you get some notion of the underlying conflict, you will not be able to find a solution.
5. If you want more from another person, wait to ask for it after they have invested more time, energy, money, reputation, or other resource.
Ready to become more visible and valued by your most valuable potential allies? Become the glue that holds groups together, so vital in these fractious times. Get actionable insights via Mutuality Matters: How You Can Create More Opportunity, Adventure & Friendship With Others and the companion book, Mutuality Matters More: Living a Happy, Meaningful and Satisfying Life with Others.