28 October, 2019
I’ve mentioned the Being Human (at work) newsletter before on here. You should go and sign up.
A recent edition was all about de-escalating tricky or high tension situations at work, and included a suggested three-step programme:
De-escalating can be pretty tough if everyone's already in fight or flight mode, including yourself. In tougher situations, try following these three steps:
- Ask yourself - what is your underlying fear in this situation?
- Pause the conversation (I literally say "can I press pause for a second?") and share that fear with the other person.
- Be quiet and see what they say next.
This is some great advice, and I’ve used variations of these steps in the past when I’ve found myself at an impasse. Sometimes, though, steps one or two are not options. Maybe your "fight-or-flight" is manifesting as full amygdala hijack, preventing useful reflection; or perhaps your underlying fear is something that will take more time to unpack than the situation will allow.
In those cases, just going straight to step three and shutting the fuck up for a moment can be a ninja move. Let the other party run their opinions and concerns out of their system, and stop trying to fight against it.
What’s really happening here is that fear gets in the way of hearing. Maybe you find out that you’re both getting hung up on the same thing, but were too busy talking at each other to hear. Maybe you find out that they’re struggling with something you can help with, but that they needed some time to talk themselves round to it.
If in doubt, when you feel that tempo start to rise and the blood start to boil, shutting up and listening is never a bad first response.