Friday, April 30, 2010

When Conversations Go Awry

Ever have a conversation with a customer, employee, friend or family member that didn't go the way you expected?

Ever take a step too far with your words, in a vulnerable way, and then NOT know what to do next – because your emotions started taking you over?

You know the feeling . . . your adrenal glands kicks in strong – almost instantaneously – and you jump directly into a "Fight or Flight" mode of operation.

I don't care who you are, I believe there are those that have experienced this . . . and those that will.

In fact, I'd like to say that I'm in the latter group, but more times than I'd like to admit, I find that I have to physically remove my foot from my mouth. And as much as I know how best to respond, my adrenaline still often gets the best of me.

Awkward moments are a part of life.

If you want to grow, professionally or personally in this world, you have to take chances. Feeling vulnerable and sometimes being a little too vulnerable is how you find out who you are and how to get better in “difficult situations”.

In business, it often happens in a sales environment, where you are pushing to make the sale. It happens when you are trying to open yourself to the client to build trust and a bond that you might cross the line. Maybe it's an untimely comment or joke, but you can immediately see it in the eyes of the person you are talking to.

In life, it might happen when you are opening up to a friend or family member – about something you have done or shouldn't have done in your past.

I talk about life and business being 10% of what happens either to you or caused by you and 90% how you respond – this is no different.

A Personal Experience

Recently, I found myself in this type of situation. I was talking to someone that means a lot to me, and I shared something that was not received the way I anticipated or had hoped.

Was it scary? Absolutely!

Did my fight or flight response kick in? You Betcha!

Truth is, I made things worse by not responding in a positive way, and letting fear drive my actions, rather than responding with my intentions in mind and staying focused through the process.

I let the “fight or flight” take over and I definitely made things worse . . . before they got better.

How To Handle The Situation When You Find Yourself NOT Going The Way You Expected.

Unlike many difficult situations you find yourself in, this is usually one that you didn't see coming. But that doesn't mean that you can't stay strong and not let the situation define you - rather than the other way around.

The key is recognizing it as it is happening. I believe, those that can feel that “fight or flight” response and funnel their emotional energy and focus it, can turn a tough situation into something that makes the relationship stronger than before.

So when you find yourself in a difficult situation like this – when you are looking across the table at someone who is pulling back from your last words – it's important to reconnect and go back to the basics - go back to your shared vision - and not get stuck in whatever it was that just got in the way.

So ask yourself, what is it that you both want – not solely what YOU want . . . nor just what the other person(s) want, but what you want together. Focus on what you both are looking for in the relationship why you are talking to begin with.

Remember to focus on your intent to help achieve that vision, and steer the conversation away from the words.

Be STRONG, but not belligerent.

Be confident, but not overbearing.

Listen and make sure you are respecting the others position and how they are feeling, and move forward.

You are both (all) trying to figure out how to move beyond the uncomfortable words that have been spoken – back on track with what you want. You are trying to take your relationship forward to where you both agree the relationship can grow.

And the good news is . . . in almost every case . . . you can.

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