Breaking down defensiveness with graciousness

Walking into an acrimonious situation, it is important to be at your kindest.
When you go to a tough environment, always start by saying, “Thank you so much for inviting me here today.” It shows that you’re there to listen and contribute, not to stonewall anyone. And that’s disarming: It lightens the mood and opens the ears.

At the same time, it takes courage and shows your maturity. That allows for more creative, productive problem-solving. And, as a leader, others are always watching your communications, and if you are known to be someone who blows, you will be isolated from important negative news.
An angry or volatile organizational culture makes it less likely that people will speak up about important risks or problems. That makes your organization less able to respond quickly to crises.

Give credit where credit is due.
People like to be seen and appreciated. Recognizing those who deserve it engenders enthusiasm, hard work, trust, and loyalty.
Practicing gratitude also spurs creativity, reflecting on your interaction with someone after the fact often sparks an idea for another opportunity with them or another way to continue the conversation. It helps to slow down long enough for those ideas to emerge.

Giving recognition is as powerful for your peers as it is for those you lead.
The urge to claim recognition can be particularly strong if someone has just taken credit for your idea or your work. But before you step in to correct the record, think twice. People are observant; they can often see who is doing the work. Staying silent in that moment, rather than rushing to say “No, I did it!” shows a lot about how confident you feel about yourself and can keep the door open for a connection with the other person.

Give the other party space and clarity.
No matter what conversation you want to have with someone, don’t catch them off their guard or off their game. Whether it’s an innocuous quick question or a serious piece of bad news, always ask if it’s a good time and try to give them a sense of what you want to discuss.

if it is a group situation, if possible, wait until the meeting is over and then call them back. Let’s say they said something offensive. Give them a call and say, “You may not know how that landed,” and discuss it from there. Shaming people publicly is not a good idea, but trying to educate others in private is always a great idea.

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