Leadership

Want To Keep People From Going On The Defensive? Assume Good Intent.

Finding The Other Side of That Hard Conversation

Step 3: Assume Good Intent

Having someone disappoint or upset us is a stressful experience we don’t like to think about. Having to then talk to that other person about it can feel like a double-whammy. Past experience tells us that criticism will cause the other person to become defensive.

We’re all human beings; we like to do well, be helpful, and hear that we are doing a good job. Even if we know we can’t be responsible for another person’s feelings, we don’t like to be told that something we did upset another person.

This is most likely true for the person you need to talk to as well. So do you just forge ahead, have the conversation, and white-knuckle it through their reaction? Well, that’s one option but not one I recommend.

In the third post of this series to help you find the other side of that hard conversation I’m going to talk about assuming good intent. If you’re just joining the conversation you may want to quickly review the first steps that help you to reduce your stress when these types of conversations need to happen:

  1. Recognize the other person is your partner, not your adversary and,
  2. Take a factual accounting of what is going on in this situation

Leaders meeting

Embody a spirit of collaboration rather than accusation

Now that you’ve cleared the emotion (or most of it) from the situation you can layer on a point of view that will continue to take the stress out of the conversation:

Come up with several perspectives that imply innocence or good intent.

Malicious intent is rare and should be treated as rare. Even if their actions appear to be selfish there is likely a reason why they feel they must act this way.

Remember what I said at the beginning of this post? We’re all human beings, we like to do well, be helpful, and hear that we are doing a good job. This is true for your person as well.

What else could be going on with this person to have them acting this way?

Be clear that the intent is not to talk you out of having the conversation. Regardless of the reason something happened that needs to be addressed. Rather, you are continuing to release the negative emotions so that when it comes time to have the conversation you come with the right attitude.

This is how you keep the other person from becoming defensive. If there is no accusation, there is nothing to defend against.

Put yourself in the other persons shoes and looking at the world through their eyes, using as much as you know about them, come up with several reasons why they might be acting the way they are.

Again, if you struggle with this work through it with a friend or associate to brainstorm and keep it positive. This is a brainstorming session; your answers can be fantastical or silly.  Anything that allows for alternative points of view is good.

Are you finding this helpful? Comment below and let me know if this is on the money or there needs to be something more.