13 Strategies to Derail Defensiveness Before it Derails Your Conversation

You walk into a colleague’s office to discuss a project that didn’t go well.  Your colleague didn’t quite deliver and missed deadlines.  You want to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, and your goal for the conversation is to identify strategies for ensuring it doesn’t.  But, as soon as open your mouth, you’re met with defensiveness.  Your colleague makes excuses about the failure of others that made him miss the deadlines, and you can’t get the conversation focused on resolving the performance issues. So what’s happening here?  What can you do? Continue Reading

Negotiate Your Way to Success

Do You Negotiate for Your Success?

Dealing with opposing counsel? Anticipating having to negotiate your salary or a promotion? How about asking for opportunities? It’s important to deal with these situations with aplomb. Whether you work at a law firm, the government, a non-profit, or in house, being able to negotiate on behalf of your client and yourself are critical to your success. Continue Reading

Satisfied Client (or Not)?

When you’re working with a client or a service provider, there is always some risk that the services provided won’t be exactly as expected. Occasionally, your expectations are not met (or, perhaps, you didn’t meet your client’s expectations). So what do you do and how do you handle what might seem like an intractable conflict?

Let’s say you hired a web designer and the end result is not what you had in mind.  First go back to your original agreement where, hopefully, you clearly described mutual expectations and commitments. Consider not just the written agreement, but conversations about the end result as well as how you were to have worked together. Let’s say your web designer’s work product fell short of your expectations and the designer’s commitment.

Instead of letting the situation escalate and become a conflict, state the facts and be careful not to use loaded language (not your hurt feelings or disappointments!) and focus on the solution. Remember, there could have been a gross misunderstanding as to the deliverable, especially if the person you initially contracted with was not in the loop after the project had been handed over to his or her team.

When you gather all the people involved in the project to clear up any miscommunications or misunderstandings, focus on the solution that will best meet everyone’s needs. Remember, accusations or blame can ruin relationships, so make sure you are focusing on the next steps and don’t forget to own your contribution to any misunderstanding

Now consider that you’re the service provider and you haven’t met your client’s expectations. If you sense disappointment from the client, bring this issue up as soon as possible. Doing so results in a greater likelihood of maintaining the client’s confidence and ultimately meeting the client’s expectations. For example, if you learn via email that your team didn’t deliver the results that the client was expecting, pick up the phone and call the client yourself. This demonstrates that you care about the client. Mistakes happen, and the most effective strategy is to acknowledge and fix them. Not only do you want to deliver services you’re proud of, but you also want to build a lasting relationship.

If you state the facts neutrally and without judgement and focus on the solution, you’re more likely to be or have a satisfied client.

Change Your Understanding. Change Your Behavior.

Imagine you’re walking home from work and see a little baby boy in a stroller. He’s making funny faces at his mom, as she’s replying to him with her face, moved and bemused. The episode changes your mood (hopefully, for the better!), even if it’s only for 10 minutes: you start appreciating simple pleasures, bonding. Again, it might be just for a couple of minutes.

Your perception of the world goes though filters. These filters, – what we see, hear and what impresses us  – like a baby in a stroller, affect our “worldview.” However, we also have permanent filters: our culture, our generation, and our personality type, all of which influence the way we see just about anything in this world and the way we behave. Some filters, such as your generation, and, probably, even culture, you already recognize as having an influence on your behavior. Other filters, such as Type, require more targeted self-assessment. (If you got curious, click here for more information.) There are 16 Types, so don’t worry, you have many kindred Types out there!

And, guess what, other people have filters as well. The idea is that if we want to get better at communicating – both in the workplace and with our family and friends, it’s important to understand our own filters as well as those of others. Recognizing the effects of filters and establishing a Win-Win mindset is always a good idea. Mindset affects how we work with others. Why should someone loose? We’re more creative than that, we can figure out how to create the Win-Win.

So what will you gain and how will your behavior change once you become more self-aware and have a clear idea of what is filtering your “worldview?” First, you’ll become more tolerant and accepting of others. Second, you’ll develop curiosity and eagerness to become aware of others’ feelings and needs. And, by staying curious and asking questions, you can grow both personally and professionally.

Our First eLearning Workshop Is Live

Great news – our first eLearning workshop is live! We created Arudia Learning to assure that our impact is both sustainable and scalable.­ 

Our first online workshop is called 5 Steps to Create A Win-Win Conversation and it is available to anyone who wants to improve both intra- and inter-team working relationships (which is just one of our online workshops; Workplace Coaching and 5 Steps Create Effective Teamwork arecoming soon).

After you finish the course, you’ll have learned how to communicate in a way that promotes greater effectiveness while reducing stress; saves time; builds trust; results in aligning colleagues on goals and needs; and leads to better solutions. In short, using the Win-Win techniques will help you enhance your leadership, collaboration, and communication style.

The course is self-paced and takes a busy professional about six to eight weeks to complete. The lessons focus on establishing a Win-Win mindset and identifying goals/needs v. strategy, applying the principles of a Win-Win conversation to real life situations, becoming aware of yourself and others and much more! You’ll also learn about the potentially chilling effects of hierarchy and how to mitigate the impact hierarchy can have on relationships, productivity, and results.

The workshop is replete with real life examples and tips you can use to solve problems with your colleagues. Exercises at the end of each lesson help you check your progress. If you’re looking to improve your overall satisfaction and effectiveness in the workplace, you’ll benefit from many of the skills this online workshop offers.

Dealing With Your Own Defensiveness

You know that some situations will be challenging for you and will trigger your defensiveness. It can happen when you’ve either already had a similar conversation many times and can see the pattern or you think you’re walking into a situation in which you will be criticized. In either case, being prepared will help you cope with your feelings so that you are less defensive and more effective. (Also, read more on dealing with your colleagues’ defensiveness.)

First, identify what you think you will hear that will likely give rise to defensiveness. Then, prepare for the conversation by figuring out what you want from the conversation and why.

Third, stay curious.  Remember that reacting to or leaping to judgment with regard to what you’re hearing usually doesn’t help. Instead, try seeing what is important to the other person. What is he or she really saying? What are his or her feelings and needs? It might surprise you. And, if you’re in a situation when you feel pushed to agree or make a decision, let others know that you need to think about it or to check with your colleagues. Don’t let others pressure you.

And, fourth, distinguish between what is said and what you’re making it mean. Repeating and rephrasing will help you figure out if what you’re hearing is actually what your colleague is saying. And, remember to ask questions – you might be climbing up that ladder of inference  – meaning you’ve added meaning – and your assumptions about what your colleague means are wrong. Often, an alternative, much less negative explanation, exists.

Nothing Is Wrong

You probably had to deal with a colleague’s defensiveness at least once in the past and there probably were times when you wished you handled it more effectively. Here are some tips to help you make your colleague feel safe, while discussing a difficult issue, and keep the focus on solving the problem!

1. Frame your message in your commitment to your colleague’s professional development.

2. Give your colleague enough time to process what you’ve said. That especially is true if you’re sorting through a difficult issue because silence allows other people time to think and respond rather than react without thinking.

3.  Ask thoughtful questions to get insight into your colleague’s goals and restate your goal (what if your colleague is mistaken about your goal?) Say that your goals are the same and try to come up with a solution that works for both of you.

4. Acknowledge your part in creating a problem and take responsibility.

5. Before you start a difficult conversation, ask for permission, for example you can say, “Would you be willing to discuss this with me?”

6. Express concern and don’t be “right.” It might be a good idea to let go of making your point if it won’t result in getting all your needs met. Not all points need to be won.

7. If your colleague makes a remark that is intended to hurt or insult you, avoid reacting to it.

8. Try to relieve stress and deal with your colleague’s fears and concerns. For example, suppose you’re giving a younger associate negative feedback and you know that he or she is concerned about getting a promotion. Say, “I am trying to support your professional development. Admitting that this was a mistake won’t affect your promotion. Let’s work together to find a strategy that works.

9. Emphasize that you’re not criticizing your colleague. You can say, “It’s not that I think you’re not committed or that you’re not good at your job…”

10. Exaggerations, such as “always” and “never” usually put people on the defensive because they’re inaccurate.

The bottom line is that awareness of your own feelings and needs as well those of your colleague will help you deal with your colleague’s defensiveness. If you’re compassionate with yourself and adopt a “nothing-is-wrong here” perspective, you’re likely to be less stressed, while avoiding judging/criticizing your colleague’s behavior will help you keep focus on resolving the issue!

Be on the lookout for our next post on dealing with your own defensiveness!

What Are You Expecting?

Expectations can be the source of much frustration.  And, unless you and your colleagues collaboratively and clearly set the expectations you could be on the road to failure. Setting expectations is closely linked to establishing accountability. You want to address such questions as what each member of the team will do and by when, how you will follow up and how you will hold each other accountable.

It’s a good idea to take the time at the beginning of the project to clearly articulate and discuss each of the following points:

·      Identify the goal and any important specifications

·      Establish the time frame for achieving the goal

·      Identify the necessary human, financial and other resources

·      Identify any significant sub-goals

·      Use a calendar to set milestones with respect to each sub-goal

·      Ask each other, “What are we missing?”

If you discuss these points, you have a good chance of eliminating potential misunderstanding and set yourself up for greater success with more ease.

Now, what do you do if you and your colleague have agreed on a strategy and your colleague hasn’t followed through? That can be an opportunity for follow-up and accountability in a supportive manner. The key is not to assign blame or become passive aggressive. It’s important to focus on getting the work done, not on blaming your colleague.

Lastly, it is more effective to stay committed and focused on achieving the goal without getting attached to a particular strategy. Staying focused on the common goal creates more ease and a sense of being on the same side.