The meeting planner broke down crying and, as I tried to disappear from the lobby without her seeing that I was seeing, all I could hear her say was: “Of course I planned for this.” Her boss answered, “Well, it’s not the first thing you’ve forgotten.” She started crying so hard that couldn’t even speak. All this in the lobby of the hotel.
Where did the conversation go wrong? Where they usually do. Instead of stepping back, the accused person held her ground and defended herself.
The meeting planner mishandled the communication.
Okay, of course, I see that her boss was a brute. But that doesn’t matter. She could have chosen a different path that would have given her a different and better response. She could have managed him and the conversation by stepping back, instead of defending herself. Had she helped the other person (in this case, her rude boss) feel safe and smart, she would have been more likely to help him see that she did what he asked. As it was, as soon as she became defensive, he lashed out again. And by then it was too late for her to regain her footing…
Whether he deserved her respect is beside the point. She could have maintained her dignity, and she would have had no reason to cry (never good to cry in business). What if when he initially accused her of whatever (unknown to me), she had responded without defensiveness? What if she had said, “Thank you, I appreciate the reminder. I had arranged for it to be in Salon A. Is that okay?”
Even if he had counter-punched with “No, it needs to be in Salon B,” she still could have maintained her professionalism. “Okay. I didn’t realize that. I’ll have it moved now.” Step back. Help the other person feel safe and smart and you win.
What would happen if instead of lowering ourselves to the other person’s level, we raised him or her to ours? Don’t get sucked in by another’s negativity or emotional outburst. It doesn’t matter if it’s an email, a conference call or a F2F meeting. Manage your conversations – every conversation – by stepping back and taking care to help the other person look good. The better they feel about themselves, the more likely they’ll be to give you the result you want.
Can you see application to both personal and professional relationships?