‘How to handle difficult situations’ is one of the most popular topics on Zoomly’s menu of workshops. Based on the insights gained on both developing / delivering it and the contributions of hundreds of participants, here are some DOs and DON’Ts to help you when a situation gets difficult.
- Go for a ‘win’ at all costs, regardless of what would be a ‘win’ for the other party.
- Diminish what the other person says, for example with “yeah but…” or “But I…” To the other person you will seem to be uninterested in what’s important to them.
- Use absolute terms, e.g. “you always… / I never…” Even if it does seem that way to you, absolutes can be received as accusations, escalating a difficult situation.
- Dismiss another person’s deal-breaker as a trifle.
- Make statements – they dampen dialogue and may entrench your position, restricting options and possibilities.
- Get ‘emotionally hijacked’ by the situation, losing perspective – and your temper.
- Go for a quick fix – that you may regret later.
- Sulk and vow to get revenge if you don’t get your way.
- Seek to find out what matters to the other person – what’s at stake?
- Ask open questions (that begin with How, Where, What, Who, When) to identify concerns.
- Listen attentively to what the other person has to say; check back with them to make sure you understand.
- Share what’s important for you in the situation, what you’d like to happen.
- Give your reasons, e.g. “…because the quality really matters to me.” “…because I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this.”
- Take responsibility for your emotions, e.g. “I get annoyed when…” “I feel upset when…” (notice how different that sounds compared to “You make me annoyed/angry”)
- Offer suggestions, e.g. “How about…?” “What if we…?”
- Stay present in the moment – aware of your own thoughts and feelings and closely observing the other person’s behaviour. Staying present helps prevent old hurts and past disputes leaking into the current situation.