Prepare or Beware

Q: I heard you speak at a conference recently, and you mentioned that it is important to prepare to hold a potentially difficult conversation. You didn’t elaborate, though, and I would like to know some specifics about how preparation can help a conversation be more successful.   A: Preparing to hold a potentially difficult conversation will dramatically increase the success of the conversation. Sometimes the way our brains work can sabotage our interactions; people who don’t prepare just might fall prey to their thinking. Three different aspects of the brain play a big role in a conversation: the unconscious, subconscious, and conscious...

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How Do You Manage a Blamer?

Q: I have a coworker who is quite negative. In fact, he is always blaming me when I don’t meet his expectations. Sometimes I am shocked to learn--after the fact--what his expectations were! What could I do to defuse this person’s blaming behavior? A: I want to address your coworker’s negativity, emotional reacting, and blaming behavior. Understanding Negativity You need to recognize that this person’s negativity is really an outward expression of what is going on inside him. Like the rest of us, your coworker can’t see past what he knows--the negativity you hear from him is expressing his wants and desires in terms of...

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Giving Feedback to the Clueless

Q: I am an internal consultant. A Senior Executive in our organization asked me to provide feedback to one of his leaders who scored poorly on the company’s 360° leadership evaluation. The Senior Exec wouldn’t allow me to view the leader’s feedback report--he told me to just deliver the negative feedback to the leader so he can improve.

 To make matters worse, the poorly performing leader really has a blind spot about his leadership ability. I mean he is really clueless about how he comes across to others! I can totally imagine him saying something like this to me at the beginning of the session: “I did great, didn’t I?” 

I feel like there’s no way that I can really make a difference with this leader. What would you do in this situation?

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The Lost Opportunity

I have been haunted this year by an event that occurred in January. I am a member of a men’s service organization that meets weekly to learn from each other and plan service activities in our community. One of the elder members suffers from a pseudo-Parkinson’s disease. Over the years, I have watched his condition deteriorate from using canes, to a walker, to a wheelchair and most recently to a motorized wheelchair. You know what they look like--a seat out of a Star Wars fighter mounted on wheels and controlled by a small joystick that allows the driver to turn right or left or to move forward or backward. On the day in question, he and I arrived at the door of our meeting rooms at the same time. I smiled and patiently held the door for him as he nervously worked at navigating

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Why Does Giving Advice Sometimes Backfire?

Q: My spouse tells me that I am too quick to give her and our children advice. She says it feels like I am always telling her what to do. That’s certainly not my intention, but whenever I offer my opinion, she accuses me of “advicing” her. Is it wrong to give advice? Or is there a way to give advice without creating so much defensiveness in other people? A: Giving unsolicited advice is what causes problems. Advice is necessarily preceded by a judgment or evaluation--which is based on our interpretation of the situation. Although you may sincerely intend to help or assist someone, giving unsolicited advice sends a variety of underlying messages which are all based on...

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Sarcasm Signals Disagreement

Q: I have a dear friend who seems to relish taking verbal “jabs” at me. Over the last couple of years, the number of his sarcastic comments has really increased. Probably because I have become more sensitive to my friend’s verbal assaults, I have started to notice that a couple of my teammates are using sarcastic comments in our meetings. Why all the sarcasm? Is there anything I can do about it? A: “Sarcasm” was first defined in the 1500’s as meaning “to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, or speak bitterly.” In our day, sarcasm seems to be used for a...

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How Can I Discover the Source of My Anger?

Q: I am the person that you wrote about last month! My children and my spouse have told me that I am always angry. When I have asked for examples, they have told me that I am “too direct, too blunt, and cold.” I really didn’t accept what they were saying until some of my close associates at work started asking why I am so upset all the time. Finally I’ve had to admit that I need to listen to their  feedback and begin to believe them. How can I learn about the source of my anger? And is there...

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Why Are Some People Always Angry?

Q:  I have a manager who is always angry. She gets angry when I do as she has asked. She gets angry when I don’t do as she has asked. It seems like she is always angry at everyone all the time. Everyone on our team goes to great lengths to avoid her. In fact, the first thing we do every morning is assess the level of her irritation before the day gets under way. Why are some people always angry, and is there anything you recommend that would help the situation?   A: Let’s take a moment to define “anger.” Anger...

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Handling a Criticizer

Q: I am a team leader, and I have an individual on my team that I wish would keep his mouth shut. He is constantly making snide remarks about his teammates or openly criticizing their performance. When he does this, there is always an awkward silence followed by less engagement and participation afterward. It’s like he wants to show that he is Mr. Know-it-all. What would you do in this situation?   A: Unfortunately this is a common occurrence on many teams. Failing to address the situation will continue to impact collaboration and erode teamwork, and may even work to undermine your...

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The Gift of Ourselves

I was dashing through the Atlanta airport to catch a flight out West. When I finally arrived at my gate and had a moment to pause, I started to notice what was happening around me. People were hiding behind their newspapers, texting on their smartphones, or standing shoulder to shoulder like a mass of penguins. I was shocked by how few people were actually talking and connecting with those around them. I thought, “Certainly on Thanksgiving weekend, people would show a little more cheer.” Little did I know, I would soon have an opportunity to connect with another person. I boarded...

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Late Again?!

Q: I am a Nurse Supervisor, and I frequently have a nurse who shows up late for her shift. I haven’t said much to her about her behavior other than, “You were late today.” I have received a cross look or two, but she rarely says anything. What is frustrating for me is that I never know who is going to be late or who isn’t going to show up. If we are short-handed, then I am forced to call in other resources to cover the patients in our unit. What should I do?   A: First, you need to realize that...

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Don't Blame Me!

 Q: “I am in marketing and I design marketing campaigns for major corporations. My boss recently asked me to design a campaign in six weeks that should have taken three months. After completing the project on time, my manager, director, and vice president want to blame me for running over budget. It seems that when they lowered their bid on the campaign, they forgot to reduce the scope of the project. Consequently, we had to meet the client’s demands at a lower price. My supervisors have called a meeting with me next week, and I am guessing they are going to...

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Why Don't They Do What They Say They'll Do?

Q:  “My manager asked me to create a report for her. Although she promised to give me the facts and figures I need for the report, she has not done so yet. What do I say now?” A: There are a number of reasons why leaders may break a commitment: First, changing priorities often influence one’s ability to keep a commitment within a specific time frame. Second, with all that leaders have to do, it is easy to overlook--or simply forget--some commitments. Or perhaps your manager has changed her mind about having you prepare the report after all. This is a perfect...

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Throwing Things

Q: "I am a nurse in the O.R. at a local hospital. At times, out of frustration, certain physicians will throw things at us during surgery--soiled sponges, gauze, and sometimes even instruments. Our hospital has a motto of being 'Physician Friendly,' and yet our greatest asset is our people--all of our people--and the respect that we demonstrate to each other. How do I hold a difficult conversation about this behavior 'on the fly?'"   A: There are really two conversations that need to be held in this situation: a conversation about emotions and an expectations conversation. The Emotional Conversation When someone demonstrates defensive or reactionary...

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