By Eileen L. Berman, Ed.D.
In my blog concerning anxiety, I talked about not letting anxiety determine your response. So what is a “good” response to a difficult confrontation?
First, you have to assess what the problem appears to be. Work it out in your own mind. Delay your response for about 24 hours. This gives you a chance to think through how you want to approach the person who is complaining.
Second, if you do only one thing, you must make yourself LISTEN. In my book, Building Productivity, there is a blueprint on listening. It’s far more involved than one would think. In order to be a good listener, you really have to listen to the entire person … the words and music … the stated problem and the emotions. If you really pay attention and not try to think of your next response in answer to a damning diatribe, you will reflect to the person who is “attacking” what you hear and see: both words and music. That alone will help defuse a rather tense situation. It all comes under the heading of “I understand” … which is really all the “attacker” is after, that you understand the issue at hand and the feelings attendant upon it. This connection will go a long way to help resolve the problem.
The one thing you don’t want to do is to defend your position. And that’s the first response that usually comes to mind. A defensive posture will not gain you anything. The important thing is to listen – not defend … and ask the person who is upset how he or she feels this issue can be resolved. This will take you to the problem solving step and get you where you want to be headed.
While it’s easy to write this, it’s very difficult to do. When attacked, we naturally want to defend. If you can learn to put your hurt feelings aside and just listen to the person who is attacking, you will end up by achieving your goal. What is your goal? To solve the problem! And that is the discussion you will get to if you let the aggrieved party “blow off steam” – even if it hurts!
Dr. Eileen Berman is a licensed psychologist/consultant in East Greenwich, R.I. She is the author of 2 books: Dealing Effectively With Job Loss and Building Productivity; and has a website, rebuildyourcareer.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.