We have all experienced being caught by a challenging conversation. We didn’t see it coming. We are unprepared and our thoughts are somewhere else. Effectively we’ve been blindsided without warning.
Our bodies respond to these situations with the flight/fight response. We are designed with great systems to keep us safe. Today in our corporate world, even a conversation can look like danger if we are not expecting it. Adrenaline starts coursing through your body and your heart rate spikes, oxygen is directed away from your limbs to keep your vital organs functioning. That’s why you might feel ‘weak at the knees’, shaky or your mind might feel ‘foggy’. Our emotions are triggered quickly and any hope of rational thought has ‘left the building’.
You now can’t think rationally, even if you tried. You need to get rid of the influx of adrenaline in your bloodstream and that only happens with time. We are chemical beings with our bodies responding through chemical reactions, and breaking down adrenaline takes time.
So the first thing to do when a challenging conversation strikes is to buy yourself some time.
Time allows the necessary chemical reactions to take place, the heart rate to return to normal, for blood to reach the brain. Only then will you logically engage in the conversation for a worthwhile and productive outcome. There is no point having a challenging conversation when you are in a heightened emotional state, because you will not be thinking rationally, and you could say or do something you later regret.
Buying yourself some time allows you to get your frame of reference correct, manage your own emotions, collect the data or items you need, get the back-story, bring yourself into the present moment, manage your own emotions and get some rational thinking happening. So how do you buy yourself some time?
Here are three strategies:
• Genuinely tell them that now is not a good time for you to give your full concentration to their concern and you would really like to give this your full attention. Ask to reschedule, perhaps even later that day.
• Walk with them to a different location. It is never good to have a discussion in a public space, even a corridor. The act of walking to a different location will buy you some time.
• Before the discussion gets under way, ask them if they would like a coffee, tea or water. The time it takes to make the drink or to go and ask someone to make it for you, buys you time.
Next time you are caught with a difficult conversation without warning, remember, buy yourself some time.
If you have some more good strategies, please share them with me via email firstname.lastname@example.org
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