"Keeping Cool While Under Fire" by Kare Anderson

Imagine. The number one reason people get fired in the U.S. is anger, andthe number one problem people say they have at work is they do not feelheard and respected.

How do we make people feel heard when they are difficult to be around -- and still stand up for ourselves? If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail.

Here are some more "tools" to add to your "toolbox" for the next time someone is upset and taking it out on you. None will work all the time, and some will work better for your personality style than others.

Here are some suggestions:

Lighten Up.
When others begin to act "hot," we instinctively tend to either 1. Escalate (become like them and get loud, more hostile, or othermimicing reactions), or 2. Withdraw (poker face, quiet down). Either approach gets us out of balance. Both are self-protective butself-sabotaging reactions. They are akin to saying "I don't like yourbehavior -- therefore I am going to give you more power." Instead, sloweverything down: your voice level and rate and the amount and frequency ofyour body motions.

Be aware that you are feeling a hot reaction to the other person. Insteadof dwelling on your growing feelings, move to a de-escalating action andleave room for everyone, especially the person in the wrong, to save faceand self-correct.

Take the "Three A's" Approach:
* Acknowledge that you heard the person, with a pause (buys time for both to cool off), nod, or verbal acknowledgment that does not immediately take sides ("I understand you have a concern" rather than "You shouldn't have ... ." ) or involve blaming or "bad labeling" language ("Let's discuss what would work best for us both now" rather than "That was a dumb . . .) that pours hot coals on the heat of escalation and hardens the person into their position.

* Ask for more information so you both can cool off more and you can findsome common ground based on her or his underlying concerns or needs.

Try to
"warm up" to the part of the person you can respect -- focus on it mentallyand refer to it verbally: "You are so dedicated" or "knowledgeable" orwhatever their self-image is that leads them toward rationalizing theirbehavior.

* Add your own. Say, perhaps, "May I tell you my perspective?" This setsthem up to give you permission to state your view.

Presume Innocence
Nobody wants to be told they are wrong. Whenever you have reason to believe someone is lying or not making sense, you will not build rapport bypointing it out to them. Allow them to save face and keep asking questionsuntil you lose imagination or control. Say, for example, "How does thatrelate to the . . ." (then state the apparently conflicting information).You might find you were wrong, and thus you "save face." Or, by continuednonthreatening questions, you can "softly corner" the other person intoself-correcting, which protects your future relationship.

Look to Their Positive Intent, Especially When They Appear to Have NoneOur instincts are to look for the ways we are right and others are . . .less right. In arguing, as the momentum builds, we mentally focus on thesmart, thoughtful, and "right" things we are doing, while obsessing aboutthe dumb, thoughtless, and otherwise wrong things the other person isdoing. This tendency leads us to take a superior or righteous position, getmore rigid, and listen less as the argument continues.

Difficult as you might find it, try staying mindful of your worst side andtheir best side as you find yourself falling into an escalating argument.You will probably be more generous and patient with them, and increase the chances that they will see areas where you might be right after all.

Dump Their Stuff Back in Their LapIf someone is verbally dumping on you, do not interrupt, counter, orcounterattack in midstream, or you will only prolong and intensify theircomments. When they have finished, ask "Is there anything else you want to add?" Then say, "What would make this situation better?" or "How can we improve this situation in a way you believe we can both accept?"

Ask them to propose a solution to the issue they have raised. If theycontinue to complain or attack, acknowledge you heard them each time and, like a broken record, repeat yourself in increasingly brief languagevariations: "What will make it better?"

Do not attempt to solve problems others raise, even if they ask for advice-- they might make you wrong. People will spend more time proving their way works best than using a method suggested by someone else, even someone we love or like. It's only human.

5 Tips for Reaching Better Agreements More Easily in Everyday Life

1. If you embarrass someone while trying to reach an agreement, you might never have their full attention again.

2. Even and especially when you have the upper hand, do not make a victim of the underdog.

3. Offering something free and valued up-front, unasked, often implants the desire to reciprocate, even beyond the value of the offer.

4. Problems seldom exist at the level at which they are discussed. Untilyou get some notion of the underlying conflict, you will not be able tofind a solution.

5. If you want more from another person, wait to ask for it after they haveinvested more time, energy, money, reputation, or other resource.

Author's Bio: 

Kare Anderson is the co-founder of SavvyHer.com, an online social network that recognizes and rewards women (with gifts) for their tips for making life easier and more joyful. She is also CEO of the Say it Better Center LLC and publisher of the Say it Better e-newsletter, with 38,000 subscribers in 26 countries. Anderson's a speaker and Emmy-winning former NBC TV and Wall Street Journal reporter. She's the author of Getting What You Want, SmartPartnering, LikeABILITY, Beauty Inside Out, Resolving Conflict Sooner and Walk Your Talk: Grow Your Business Faster Through Successful Cross-Promotional Partnerships.