By Emy Brubacher
Dealing with difficult situations (or people) is just that, difficult. It is tempting to take the easy route, and just pretend the issue doesn’t exist. Head in the sand. Can’t see it, it’s not there, right?
However, these situations, left unchecked, can quickly fester into a joy-sucking growth that cannot be ignored.
Negativity is the number one enemy of a healthy, productive and engaged workplace. And it breeds quickly.
So how do you make sure that difficult situations don’t get out of hand?
1. Nip it in the bud.
The longer a negative situation is left ignored, the more it can grow. When you are upset about something, how quickly do other negatives begin to crop up? Think about it.
A client calls and angrily accuses you (wrongly) of making a mistake. Rather than trying to discuss the real problem rationally, you just politely apologize and hang up the phone. Sounds fine, right? Good customer service. But now you are upset and frustrated.
On your ride home, you get cut off in traffic and slam your hands down on your steering wheel, swearing under your breath. As you walk in your front door, you find an avalanche of backpacks and coats blocking your entrance, and yell at your kids to come and clean up their mess. Your son comes down the stairs apologizing, but by this point you are giving a full on speech about how ridiculous it is that you have to constantly be after them to pick up their things. Well, by now, you are probably feeling pretty low.
So, the next time that customer calls, you aren’t going to be as apt to jump to the phone. Look how they ruined your day the last time. Perhaps you ignore the phone, or delay returning their call. But now where is your customer service? Down the tubes. Resulting in an even more disgruntled, or possibly even lost, customer.
Better to have a reasonable conversation with the client in the first place and try to come to a mutually acceptable resolution.
2. Leave your defense at the door.
A defense does not exist without an offence. By bringing in your arguments about why you are right, or why you did what you did, you create an assumption that someone must be attacking or blaming you. Ultimately, you are now pointing the finger at someone else, which means they will have to defend themselves. And around we go…
Rather than defending your side, enter into the situation with an open mind. Try to see things from another perspective. Rational discussion of both sides of a situation can bring about a sensible solution much faster than a ride on the merry-go-round.
3. Don’t gang up.
It is easy to want to call in the troops when you face a difficult situation. But there is a vast difference between asking for support and ganging up. It is all in your approach.
The more people behind you, the more in control you might feel. But getting your posse together to attack the problem can put others on the defense (see point 1), which gets you nowhere. It also creates opportunity for you to shirk responsibility. Someone else will handle the really hard stuff right?
While it can be helpful to consult privately with someone you respect to get advice or to ask for help, don’t rely on anyone else to handle the situation for you. Step up and take ownership.
4. Let it go
No matter how hard you try, there are some situations you cannot control and there are some people you cannot change. Identify what you can change (hint: usually that means YOU) and let go of the things you can’t (OTHERS). Perhaps you are not looking at things objectively and your emotions are clouding your judgement.
Rather than beat your head against the wall, take time to readjust your perspective and find a way to turn the situation into a positive. Look at the situation as an opportunity to grow yourself; to become more adaptive, to think outside the box, or to increase your emotional intelligence. Any learning you gain is a plus.
Ultimately, don’t let negativity pull you into its web. It’s your choice to get caught in the mire or to rise above and look forward.