It was one of those encounters that NO ONE enjoys – and happy, positive-attitudinal motivational speakers are no exception.
At a board meeting I attended recently, one of the participants took umbrage to a concern that I had voiced about her performance in a certain area. I am pretty good at expressing my thoughts in a non-offensive way, but very quickly it became evident that she didn’t hear it that way. She shouted, “You think I’m awful and want me out!” Then she looked down at the agenda and proceeded to move to the next item under New Business.
It was a stunning moment. I immediately interrupted her with, “Whoa, wait. We cannot leave this pile of poop in the middle of the table and just ignore it. Let me make certain that my concerns and my intentions are clear…” (Okay, maybe not the most elegant way to address the situation – but it worked.) And then I proceeded to repeat that I thought SHE was doing a Herculean job but was simply given too many responsibilities too soon. Some of them she was GREAT at – and some of them I thought she could benefit from some help with.
This was the part where she kept interrupting me, defending herself, accusing me of intentions that I didn’t have. And I saw something amazing. She had decided that I was out to get her, and regardless that other people in the room kept saying, “Wait, I don’t think Linda meant that at all. I think you are misinterpreting what she said,” she would not, or COULD not see or hear any evidence that was contrary to what she already believed.
This was all very disconcerting and uncomfortable. And YES, at one point I wanted to yell, “Hey! Snap out of it! You are making this #$%@ up!” But in spite of how I FELT, what I did was this:
1) State what was true for me (thanks, Colette Carlson)
2) Rebut her assertions a couple of times – until I realized I was talking to a locked door. At which point I decided to simply…
3) Breathe and focus
Did she ever change her mind? I don’t know. She left the meeting before I did. But I learned a valuable lesson:
Sometimes, in tough situations, you just need to take a step back, breathe and focus. Focus on…breathing. Focus on listening. Just breathe and focus. It just might keep you from saying something you will later regret.
From your motivational speaker, Linda Larsen, still breathing