Imagine; you're in a meeting or having a conversation, and things go off the rails. Someone has an emotional reaction to an issue that’s raised - maybe they get angry and fly off the handle, or their feelings overwhelm them and they clam up. Been there?
That can be destructive in a business environment, causing long-term damage to professional relationships. The result can be mistrust, resentment and the loss of good people.
Part of being an exceptional communicator involves taking charge of how you respond in emotionally heightened situations.
We're wired for self-preservation; it’s not unusual for people to react based on the emotional response they're having to a situation, because they're instinctively trying to keep themselves safe. But often those emotions are not based on the pure facts of the matter; instead, they're a product of someone's interpretation of those facts.
To move quickly through those tricky situations and still get great results, outstanding communicators base their responses on the facts and only the facts.
Some authors refer to this as the path to action; rather than doing or saying something based on emotional response as a result of interpretation, it involves deliberately going back to the facts at hand.
I’ve also heard this referred to as a ladder - with the facts at the base, your interpretation of the facts further up the ladder's rungs, your emotional response higher still on the ladder and your actions - what you choose to say and do in response - way up the top. If you’ve ever done any work, health and safety training, you’ll know the safest place on a ladder is lower down!
So, in a situation where emotions are running high, take a moment and remind yourself to climb down the ladder where the facts are. Try to avoid responding based on your emotional triggers or the story you're telling yourself about what's happened. Revisit the facts and if you’re not clear about them, be professionally curious and ask questions. By doing that, you'll be helping to avoid misunderstandings that risk sending organisations into a state of dysfunction.
When it comes to great communication, often only the facts will do. By being the person who takes the emotional charge out of negative discussions, you’ll stand out and build a reputation for your expertise.