Have you ever had one of those conversations? You know what I’m talking about. Your co-worker sidles up to you and — BAM!!! — out of nowhere comes a little comment that just sits crookedly on top of everything else. And then the engine roars and the fury train screams by . . .
While she continues with her angry discourse on what she sees as your failings,
your mind is rolling. What did she mean by that? Why would she say that to me? Most important, what can I say to her that will let her know I am offended and, even more importantly, that she was absolutely, positively wrong . . . and stupid . . . and insensitive . . . and perhaps the ultimate example of human pond scum.
What do you say in a moment like that?
Instead, pause. A few seconds. A deep breath or two. And then ask yourself some questions to help you equip for a more meaningful conversation.
From what is being said, am I totally clear on what she is talking about? (Do I understand the context of the conversation?)
What amount of truth is in her words? (Am I clear on my role in the controversy or dispute?)
If she has her facts wrong, can I understand why she might have that perspective? (What could have led her to that perception?)
The time will come for you to speak. In times of conflict and high emotion, be certain that you’re ready for that moment. And make sure that you respond in a way that allows the conversation to continue in a productive way.
Sometimes, the space you provide by pausing can shift the direction of the interaction. And even if it doesn’t calm down your co-worker, it will do wonders in reducing your personal anger.