Maybe you can relate.

Not long ago another manager came by and verbally acosted me for not getting something done. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. The work was done (in fact I’d done more than what was needed) but reports hadn’t been updated so he didn’t have the right information.

Uh, he was wrong.

Now, in my younger days this would have been a terrific opportunity to lose my head. Believe me, I came up in some tough workplace cultures and can give as good as I get. But I can hardly remember those expereinces now much less want to repeat them.

The last thing we need in the workplace today are people who can’t stay cool and find ways to work through minor – and major – issues.

And rule number one is, we don’t escalate. We keep it calm and work the problem as Gene Kranz (played here by Ed Harris) might say.

So how do we do that? How do we work the problem?

  1. Calm – the first step in any upset of routine is to stay calm. Whether at work, with loved ones or just out and about, when something shifts your best bet is to stay calm. How to do that? Space helps. Sometimes the best thing to do when confronting something seemingly hot is to step away. Take a break from the phone, leave your desk, get a breath of fresh air. Breathe. Stay calm.
  2. Listen – now that you’re at peace again, borrow from our old friend Stephen Covey and seek first to understand. Use empathic listening to search for what’s really been said/shared bearing in mind people seldom say straightforwardly what they mean. Why? They often don’t know what they’re really upset about themselves – listen first.
  3. Clarify – just like the strainer produces the best stock as the spent ingredients are poured through it agreement and ideas are best served refined. The art of clarification is that of reduction: remove the editorial comment and extraneous detail to get down to the root problem. What’s the real issue? Clarifying the real source of disagreement will help you develop – wait for it! – real solutions.
  4. Produce – the essence of most conflict lies in expectations: someone believes you should (or shouldn’t) have done something. Steps 1-3 will help you avoid much of this by re-setting valid expectations so you can move on now with clarity. But – you have to actually move on. In life there is time to reflect as well as time to do. Know which phase you’re in, and once you make agreements move on.

Conflict arises often in life and that involving our social and work circles can have some of the deepest and longest lasting impact for us. Yet managing expectations can reduce conflict frequency from a daily experience to a one off.

Healthy expectations can move you from reaction to responsibility, from taking things personally to taking personal responsibility, and in so doing buildstronger connection to the people around you.

Can you relate?



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