Be the Bridge—Communicating to a Win-Win
Eventually we all experience it. Some of us may go through it everyday (hello, Corporate Americans). The ugly email, the public humiliation, the dressing down, the nasty letter, the snotty comment—whatever form it takes, no one wins with inappropriate communication. I admit to having been both the deliverer and the recipient of it and it is not a pretty picture. No one benefits.
Of course, if you’re like me, your immediate, adrenalin-driven response is to send Vito and Guido out to slap some sense into the offender. Then, after you talk yourself down a bit, you just want to engage in some verbal thrust and parry, slicing the under-armed opponent to figurative ribbons with your witty repartee. But let’s face it, this usually just gets really ugly and quickly slips down into the realm of verbal mud wrestling. Even if you emerge victorious, you feel dirty.
So, as an old—make that experienced—dog who has learned new tricks, I offer a few tips that I am working through as a part of my twelve-step communication program:
- Take a moment. Never, I mean NEVER, respond immediately. Do whatever you need to do—sleep on it, leave the room, take a deep breath, mentally go to your happy place—just don’t spit out your first thought—even if it’s a really great retort.
- Step out of the emotion. An out-of-body experience may be easier for some of us than for others, but try to look at the situation as though it were happening to someone else and you are an observer. This helps restore some objectivity.
- Consider the source. Is the offender someone who ALWAYS sends nasty-grams or is this unusual? If it’s unusual, it’s forgivable—we all have a bad day now and again. If it’s standard fare, don’t be sucked into the morass. Be objective in your response. Someone with offensive communication is making a fool of himself; you don’t need to help. You emerge victorious by your restraint.
- Be the Bridge. When you are most frustrated, it is easy to play the blame, shame and regret game. So instead examine the situation and own as much of the fault as you can. As you start laying planks across the chasm of misunderstanding, the other person will—albeit reluctantly sometimes—do the same.
Although you may be loath to agree when in the midst of a communication breakdown, the Golden Rule is the best rule. Failing that just keep in mind that sticks and stones may break your bones, but words really can’t kill you. If that doesn’t work, head to a quiet room and keep chanting…“be the bridge, be the bridge.”