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  • Writer's pictureRobert Norton

You gotta know when to fold 'em

Updated: Jun 24, 2022

Last week, I coached a leader who is going through a big evolution in her role. I helped her prepare for a high-stakes conversation with a colleague who will need to support the changes in order for them to be successful. Based on past experiences, she was concerned that this colleague would take issue with her new scope of responsibility and find it difficult to collaborate. In our coaching session, we worked on crafting a message that was both logical and empathetic to her colleague’s position. We felt good about it.

I got this text from her the next day: Wow. That meeting went horribly. Like, I’m speechless.

It turns out that her colleague was not ready to play ball. That part didn’t surprise me; sometimes it takes many rounds of dialogue to move someone initially resistant to a place of partnership. What did astonish me was the fact that my client spent two hours locked in a debate about her plan. TWO HOURS….banging her head against a brick wall.

Parenting guru, Dr. Laura Markham, has a technique that I often use in times of relationship gridlock. She advises us to stop, drop and breathe to break the cycle of emotional escalation. It works like a charm for kids and adults alike.

  • Stop: Take a moment to notice that you are triggered and defensive. Ask yourself: Am I on a path to resolution or has this escalated to the point of being unproductive?

  • Drop: Drop your agenda. Your perfectly logical arguments will fall on deaf ears if you are encountering a wall of emotionally charged defensiveness. When things escalate, it’s no longer helpful to try to educate, beg or barter; you are wasting your time and potentially jeopardizing the relationship.

  • Breathe: Give yourself some space. You can silently take a few centering breaths in the course of the conversation. Or you can acknowledge that the timing isn’t right and commit to coming back together when emotions settle.

It can be incredibly difficult to drop your agenda when you are passionate about your position. But when you hit a brick wall, it often means you need a new strategy or the person you are trying to convince needs more time to consider your point of view.

If you have said your piece and you are getting nowhere, it’s time to stop, drop and breathe. You’ll be proud that you kept your composure, and you can come back for round two with an upgraded approach.



 

MindFrame, LLC delivers leadership and career coaching, team facilitation, and keynote presentations to help you create change for good.

Custom services can be conducted at your organization or virtually.

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