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Cornered by a coworker?

Right now things are tense. Many people are operating in fight/flight mode. It’s easy to think, “I have to do this NOW! I should answer RIGHT AWAY!”

No, you don’t! Take a deep breath. Take another deep breath. Take a third deep breath.

When cornered or rushed, do the opposite of what you feel. Slow down. Pause. Evaluate.

Why, because emotional decisions are expensive. At the beginning of the pandemic just before lockdown, our clothes washer began tripping the breaker. We had a repairman look at it and recommend a $900 repair. That seemed ridiculously expensive. Instead, we purchased a brand new washer because we were afraid in-home deliveries would stop because of Covid fears.

Guess what? The brand new washer also tripped the breaker. So, we switched the circuit to a non-GFCI, and it worked fine. We basically bought a new washer for nothing. Why? PANIC

During stressful times, it’s even more important to slow down. Stress causes our brains to operate in fight, flight or freeze mode, meaning we can’t think straight, literally.

Instead, we can respond in the following ways to gain space and calm down:

  • Thank you for letting me know. I can get back to you with a response after I’ve had time to process.
  • That sounds urgent, so I’d like to run it by others. Would you be available for a conference call this afternoon?
  • That sounds important, and I’d like to be sure we are making good decisions. I have an appointment right now, but we can talk again in a couple of hours. Let’s set up a call/meeting.

The key to an effective response is twofold: Acknowledgement, then action.

When we acknowledge first, it shows the other person we listened and validated their concern. If we avoid acknowledgement, they might think, “Hey, you’re not listening to me!” or “You don’t care about me.”

People who feel ignored, discounted, or discarded tend to escalate to get attention. Escalating is unpredictable, volatile, and even potentially violent or disruptive. Escalating can take a subversive tact also. It may look like sabotage or backstabbing.

Next, we need to act. Acting shows we will do something. This is comforting and supportive. People feel reassured someone is fixing the problem.

At the upcoming connect2comms Marketing & Communications Conference in Greenville, South Carolina, we will share more practical strategies for dealing with surprises in a session called, “Beyond the Blindside.” See you there.