Making good choices in a bad situation
♫When people run in circles
It’s a very very
Mad world, mad world … ♫
Music and Lyrics by Tears for Fears, recorded by: Michael Andrews & Gary Jules.
All of us are DNA hardwired for ‘fight or flight’. Being lawyers, the fight option has been honed to a fine edge. However, there are times when the other option may be the better option. It is inevitable that we are going to encounter people who attack us, counter us, oppose our ideas or simply do not like us. Our immediate impulse is to react and attack. It is not easy but ultimately fighting is not the best reaction – it turns a one-sided reaction into a battle of two egos. We end up responding to a tussle of who is right?
As a practice advisor I see this scenario played out all the time. Giving objective advice when one is on the outside is completely different from being on the inside. Having had a recent personal encounter in such a situation, I can say that it is much harder to make the right decisions when you are the one involved. I went searching for answers. So here are some tips that I have found for helping to make the right choice:
- Anger feeds anger: This is a downward spiral that causes us to feel more compelled to defend ourselves the angrier our thoughts become.
- It is about them: Most times negativity is a reflection of the other person’s inner state. It isn’t about you – you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are frustrated, angry and in conflict and they are looking for someone to take down with them.
- It is a waste of energy: Do we really want to invest all that time and emotional energy in responding?
- It is going to affect you: If the fight response emerges, you are going to drag that negativity into other parts of your life when you get home. Do you really want to poison your positive home life this way?
- You can choose: Ultimately you can’t control what people do and say; what you can decide is how you react. You can choose a better way.
- Wait it out: Draft the response letter and lock it away in a drawer for Monday. Chances are by then you will have different – more rational – options to deal with this person.
- Forgive: Yes forgive. If you don’t then the negativity takes hold inside you.
- Go for a Run: Get away from the situation and expend some physical energy. You will feel better for it.
- Best/Worst case analysis: Negotiation theory speaks of BATNAs: The Best Alternative to a Negotiated Situation. What is the best and worse case scenarios if you do and do not respond.
- Evaluate from Your Perspective: Recall that this person is trying to draw you into their game plan. Ask yourself: Will responding to this person advance the things that are most important to me?
- Look for the Lesson: Inside each difficult situation is something that will help you grow as a person. Don’t lose the opportunity.
- Let Go: Write out all your thoughts about this situation – roll the paper into a ball and throw it away. Now – carry on with your life!
Responding to mad people is not easy. If it was, then the world wouldn’t have negative people running in circles making life difficult for others.
This article originally appeared in the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia branch’s publication BarTalk.
♫ And there’s a road I have to follow, a place I have to go
Well no-one told me just how to get there
But when I get there I’ll know
‘Cause I’m taking it
Step by step, bit by bit,
Stone by stone (yeah), brick by brick (oh, yeah)
Step by step, day by day, mile by mile…♫
Lyrics and music by: Even Stevens, Eddie Rabbitt and David Malloy, recorded by Whitney Houston.
This is another great gust post from Beth Flynn of the Ohio Leadership Center. In this post she concentrates on the 15 steps for effective communication:
- Let go of your own ideas, role, and agenda and try to understand what the other person is saying.
- Become curious about what makes them tick.
- Before you speak, draw out the other person’s ideas.
- Search behind the words for the other person’s meaning. Especially is he or she disagrees with you.
- Discover and manage your listener’s unspoken expectations.
- Respond respectfully and nondefensively acknowledging and addressing the other person’s concerns first.
- Choose an appropriate form of communicating.
- Speak respectfully, empathically, and responsively.
- Demonstrate that you heard the other person’s deeper needs and feelings.
- Anticipate objections and address them before they are raised.
- Clarify and emphasize our agreements.
- Acknowledge differences and restate issues positively.
- State your interests instead of your positions.
- Ask for feedback.
- Compliment the other person for listening
From: Cloke, K. & Goldsmith, J. (2011). Resolving conflicts at work: ten strategies for everyone on the job (3rd Ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 51-54.
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Thanks Beth for another great tip that will help us change one step at a time!