You didn’t Mean to Upset Anyone
You didn’t mean to make them mad, but they are. You were just trying to make things better.
Its the absolute worst when doing your best upsets others. Fasten your seat-belt. It happens all the time in leadership.
Good intentions turn out bad.
- Say, “Calm down.”
- Lean in. While showing compassion, lean in. In heated situations, step back.
- Change the subject.
- Bring up the past.
- Explain why they’re wrong.
- Blame someone else.
- Rollover and play dead.
- Defend yourself.
- Get angry.
- Make it personal.
- Let go of, “I didn’t mean to.” Think about real impact not private intention.
- Agree they’re upset. When someone tells you they’re upset, they’re right. Agreeing isn’t affirming.
- Pretend they’re angry at someone else. How does that impact your reasoning and responses? (Peter Bregman)
- Accept their perspective. People who get upset aren’t idiots. Don’t minimize their reasons. See and affirm their perspective. “I can see why you think that.”
- Explore the behavior that caused the offense. “Tell me again what I did to upset you.”
- Identify real issues. They’re upset about the changes you’re suggesting. But, in reality, they feel left out and disrespected.
- State positive intentions with real issues in mind. “I want you to feel my respect and appreciation.”
- Ask forgiveness for the real offense.
- Explain remedial action. “I talked with my coach about the ways I unintentionally make people feel disrespected. She said, “Ask questions before making statements.”
- Involve offended parties in solutions. Ask them to affirm your successes and offer suggestions for shortcomings. (All input must address observable behaviors.)
Bonus: Follow up to see if the issue has been resolved.
Successful leaders use angry situations to build stronger connections.
What do you do when you trying to do good turns out bad.
Nice. Great list, as expected.
The anchor point for me is that, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and we judge others by their behavior.”
Matching the emotion of the other is usually a good tactic to develop some rapport before addressing the emotional issue. Just pushing back usually maintains or inflames things.
But sometimes, you are just right and they are simply wrong, so you do have to maintain your position on things. A good strategy for that is to first understand their position, fully. We often infer too much and all of us assume that what we said was what we meant and what they heard may have not been what we said so that our saying is not their understanding of your meaning but it is their understanding of what you thought your meaning might have been intended to be.
So, always clarify and understand, even if you are right and they are wrong.
Thanks Dr. Scott. I’m glad you brought up the situation where we are still right, even though they think we are wrong. Great add.
In addition, we can be right in goal/objective but wrong in method or procedure. I find that frustration too.
If one goes back to “Good Communications Theory,” one should remember that it is ALWAYS good to check assumptions anyway, even if the other person seems to be in agreement. Communications is really difficult, at least clear communications, and that is why face to face is so much better than voice and voice is so much better than text.
I didn’t say she loves me.
Think you know what that means? Or at least what I mean by it? Play the game of repeating that sentence six times, emphasizing each word in each repetition. You get six TOTALLY different meanings / understandings.
Add a bit of frustration or anger to the communication, and it can get really crazy.
My Mom, like most moms in olden days, used to always say, “Count to 10 before responding with anger.”
That is probably still good advice. It is the same basic idea as, “Stepping back from the wagon” that functions to change perspective and dissociate oneself from the direct involvement in the action. Perspective is useful; perspective is hard to do when you are emotionally hooked in and fighting within a conversation…
And “listening” is what we do while we are formulating our response to what they said.
“Yeah, but…” also does not help.
Sure is fun out there, eh?
And isn’t that do grinning? My poodle used to have that same toothy grin when she was really happy…
Outstanding blog, Dan. Once again handling a touchy subject strategically and fairly. And, Dr. Simmerman, your comment was right on the mark, too. Thanks. P. S. Love that photo headline!
Thanks Bob. I agree. Scott’s comments were useful!
The picture scares me. I almost didn’t use it.
When good turns out bad, I do three things- first I smile immediately. It means when things are heated or seems to be heated, I simply smile. When I perceive that discussion is leading to argument, I smile and deviate the root. This is immediate step I take.
Secondly, I understand the limitation of discussion and person. When I intend to convince someone for the good, and things are not going right, I use my intuition to understand the limitation of discussion and person. I either stop or deviate the discussion.
Third and the most important thing is I learn. I learn what went wrong. My intention may be right but what made other person to perceive me wrong. Did other person understood me the way I wanted to communicate. Two things emerge here- either my way was wrong or it is very difficult to convince person. When I feel, my way was wrong, then I see the scope.
And I try to repeat the behavior or activity for good. And keep on trying unless impact is positive.
In the whole process, I do not get influence by external factors or people. There are many instances when others try to deviate us, but I stand firm when I think I am right.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. I’m glad you shared from a personal perspective.
One of the questions you suggested hit me between the eyes. My intention may be right but what made other person to perceive me wrong. — that opens the door to greater success.
Although we shouldn’t let other people control what’s important to us. Learning how to adapt to others is one way to become more effective with others.
Item 7 of Don’t is too funny. I like this one!
Thanks seeker. I guess it’s more colorful than saying, stand up for yourself. 🙂
Dammit Dan! Another list I have to frakin’ print out. You’re killing the trees man! They’re dying!
This is so good I have nothing to add and don’t even want to try. Must feel good to have hit such an inspiring chord while writing this morning. Thank your muse for me.
Thanks James. I was just trying to do good and you got mad. 😉
Wow, again – so practical and easy to implement. I love this one in particular: Explain remedial action. “I talked with my coach about the ways I unintentionally make people feel disrespected. She said, “Ask questions before making statements.”
Paul// Leadership Blogger, http://www.paulsohn.org
Great points Dan.
#4 of the Do list is important. How often are we trying to change or cover up or hide or ignore what people are REALLY feeling!? I know we’ve had lengthy comms on this in past blog posts you’ve written on the topic of anger. (more then a couple years back now!) And trying to deny or to make people feel wrong for feeling what they are feeling is absurd! It doesn’t MATTER if it’s ‘logical’ or not…if it doesn’t make sense or not. When someone FEELS angry….they’re angry! Period! When I experience anger (feel), I’m angry! Having anyone argue with me about what I’m actually feeling is the fastest way for the respect meter to start dropping. The moment we PROVE we can’t handle someone else’s truth or aren’t willing to understand it, we’ve just lost our ability to influence…..
As soon as I know a leader can’t handle ‘the truth’…it’s hard to consider that person a leader anymore. It may sound harsh but it’s true. Even if the leader gets compliance from their people, it doesn’t mean they still have the respect of their people.
Also, something else occurred to me as I read this only because I encounter it far too often in people in general.
How often is the ‘I didn’t really mean to upset anyone’ really coming from a passive aggressive person who isn’t taking responsibility for the very real possibility they actually ARE trying to get a rise out of someone else? The easy way to hide it is to simply say….I didn’t mean to…..
Of COURSE the passive aggressive person MEANS to! It’s their M.O.
Also, where do we draw the line between wanting to respect and understand each others feelings and not allowing others to control us with their feelings? Outside of the intentionally manipulate, passive aggressive people etc…we aren’t ultimately in control of what another person feels. To take responsibility for how someone else feels is part of co-dependency.
So it’s important we learn to discern that line… We learn to know the difference between caring about what someone else is experiencing without being controlled by it.
Thanks for sharing Dan.
Thanks Samantha. Great add! I’m glad you picked up the ball and ran with it. I’ve seen leaders belittle others when they reject what people are feeling. It’s even worse when someone has the courage to share their feelings and they get stepped on by someone with power or position.
As I wrote this post, people who intentionally make people angry came to mind. It’s a big and complicated topic. Glad you brought it up.
Too much good stuff to even know where to begin Dan. You’ve given us a very useful list of insights. I also like the presupposition from Neuro-linguistic Programmng (NLP): The meaning of your communication is the response you get, regardless of your intention. I don’t always like knowing that, but I agree with it, if not taken to an extreme.
Thanks Alan. “The MEANING is the response you get, regardless of your intention.” Thats one of the hardest lessons of communication.
Agreed! Applying this lesson takes healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.
As someone who can be passive aggressive, I love point #1 in the do list. As someone who often takes anger expressed by someone else personally, #3 is an excellent way to stop me retreating and stay in the conversation. Most of all I love the acknowledgement in the overall post here that anger is a part of the emotional spectrum and we all need to learn how to deal with it (in ourselves and in others) not avoid it. I wonder if the whole decrease in engagement in the workplace is because so often we are limited to polite, careful emotions. The strong emotions (delight, joy, anger, sadness) don’t get expressed in politically correct world I live in.
Hmmm…I seem to have been there recently. Thanks, Dan.
“Ask questions before making statements” is the most enlightening statement I have read/heard. This from a person that has often unintentionally rubbed people the wrong way for years.
What I think it is very difficult to predict the behavior of the other person.Some times we think that we are right and do not give space for others, later it is realized that I was wrong, the best way to overcome this situation is that we must give a thought before reacting. I used to get angry when I see that the other person is not in line with me, over a period of time, I could realized that, I may be wrong, My intention was not bad but I was not ready to accept the behavior of others. With the passage of time, I could win over this and started giving a pause, whenever I get angry and think, putting myself in other’s shoes.
This is really terrific advice. Thanks!
This is a great post as I see a lot of learning and relevance.
Where I see a challenge is that most of the stated ‘DO’s need one to let go of one’s ego and accept that one might have been wrong ( or could have done something in a better way). Specially in a group situation this can become difficult. So how does one go about handling such a situation?