The project has hit a wall. Tension overload. You can feel it. The person you’re working with is telling you—if not through their words then by their actions (not returning emails, missing meetings, for example)— “I can’t take this anymore.”
The classic fight or flight response. They’re done.
There’s no one to blame but yourself. You just kept forging ahead with your go-to communication behaviors, oblivious to the fact that the message wasn’t hitting home.
Don’t worry. There’s a fix!
The problem: ignoring others’ communication styles
In our Building Relationship Versatility training, we teach that everybody has a way they like to be communicated with in the workplace, depending on their so-called Social Style—Analyticals, Amiables, Expressives, and Drivers. You must tailor your communication—face-to-face, email, phone, whatever—to their needs and preferences. Otherwise, they won’t heart a thing you say.
If you keep on trying to ram through your communication based on your style, you’ll eventually force them into their Backup Behaviors, which are basically inflexible versions of their Style Behaviors:
- Analyticals tend to avoid the issue—and you! They manage excess tension by limiting their exposure to the stressful situation.
- Amiables tend to acquiesce, paying lip service to agreement yet seething underneath. Their message is, “Fine. We’ll do it your way.” You think you’ve won, but you haven’t. They’ll sabotage “your way” when you’re out of sight.
- Drivers tend to be autocratic, confronting, and demanding. They manage tension by asserting even more control than normal. It’s all about who holds the power in their mind—themselves.
- Finally, Expressives tend to attack, emotionally blaming others on the team—or you in particular—thinking, “You and your ideas are ridiculous!”
Whatever, the wall has been hit. You’ve got to tear down that wall if you’re going to achieve the team’s goal.
One final note before we start: take stock
You’ll know it when people retreat into their Backup Behaviors. All progress has stopped.
Your first step is to look within. Pause and take a deep breath. You need to get out of your own fight or flight responses—your lizard brain. Deep breathing calms down the amygdala, the area associated with the body’s fear and stress responses in the brain.
Breathing helps you relax and think and improves your ability to respond in a tense situation.
The last thing you want to do is to let your own tension mingle with the other person’s tension. A recipe for disaster.
So what do you do when a person has retreated to their Backup Behavior?
The solution: LSCPA
In our Building Relationship Versatility training, we teach a method we call LSCPA. It stands for:
- Listen—Let them get it all out. Sincerely try to understand. It’s not easy. Most of us don’t listen and instead focus on formulating our rebuttal: “It wasn’t myfault!” Wrong approach! Pay attention to the facts, the beliefs, and the feelings that they express when you’ve hit that “wall.”
- Share—Genuinely empathize with their concerns. Use phrases such as “You’re angry, and I can understand why.”
- Clarify—Restate what you’re hearing in your own words. Make sure you understand the real issue.
- Problem-solve—Once you agree on what the problem(s) is/are, engage in a back-and-forth to find a better solution.
- Ask for action—Has their concern been addressed adequately? Ask them. Make plans for everyone to follow through.
During the Listen and Share parts, you are trying to address the tension in the room. During the Clarify, Problem-Solve, and Ask for Action steps, you are addressing the problem. It’s not easy—but it works. It may take more than one conversation, depending on the complexity of the situation and the number of people involved.
Get ready to intervene and neutralize
You must resolve to treat the person as they want to be treated. You must move the offended parties back into a productive state of mind. This happens primarily in the Listen and Share steps.
- With Analyticals and Amiables, your strategy must be to intervene.
- With Drivers and Expressives, you must neutralize.
When it comes to intervening with Analyticals and Amiables, you must get the issue out on the table—the elephant in the room. Maybe go first: Share your own feelings about the situation. Then find out with sincere curiosity what’s bothering the person. Get specifics. Make sure you understand their specific concerns. Once the issue(s) is/are completely aired, clarify the core problem and then problem solve.
When it comes to neutralizing Drivers and Expressives, let them vent. If you can lower their defensiveness, you might be able to identify the real problems behind their anger. Ask enough questions to get the venting started and finished. Stay nonconfrontational. Once the issue(s) is/are completely aired, clarify the core problem and then problem-solve.
Intrigued by my comments on style and effective communication? Do you notice a lot of miscommunication on your team? It’s fixable! I’d love to give you a free 15-minute consultation to discuss how we may help.