Every muscle tightens. You feel your jaw set, your eyes laser focused. You resist every urge to slam your hands on your desk, let alone flip the whole thing over. You ended the phone call abruptly, thankful this wasn’t an in-person conversation. But you wonder why you feel so angry. You asked for his feedback on the project. You expected him to poke a few holes to make the presentation better. You were not expecting him to rip it apart. After all your hard work, do you really have to start from square one? Even worse, you’ll have to call back and apologize for your response. You definitely could have handled that better. Next time, you make a promise to yourself that you’ll respond differently. That you’ll put into practice the things you’re learning about slowing down, refusing to let your emotions get ahead of you. You always say something you regret when that happens. You’re tired of eating your words and ready to grow in your leadership. You’re finding out it’s true – practice makes perfect. Good thing you have ample practice opportunities.
When it comes to tension in the workplace, misunderstanding is often at the root. But there are tactics you can put into play that will reduce conflict and enhance collaboration. As a leader, you’ll have to work hard to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Identifying your natural responses will help you navigate difficult conversations and prevent you from reacting negatively.
Step 1: Know Your Trigger
Self-reflection will help you identify the “thing” that always seems to trigger a quick response. You speak without thinking, shut down a colleague, or have a strong emotional response. By discovering what triggers your natural instincts, you can slow down your thinking when your trigger is pressed.
Step 2: Identify Your “Go-To” Style
When you’re triggered, what is your natural emotional response? Do you become angry or defensive? Do you blame or become sarcastic? Are you harsh or silent? Knowing what your natural reaction is, you can stop yourself when it arises. Try to determine what you are feeling and why you are feeling that way. Ask yourself questions like: “Did I feel disrespected or unheard in the meeting?” “Do I feel hurt or angry by what was said?” Knowing exactly what you are feeling will also help you clarify your trigger.
Step 3: Don’t Act on Your Desire to Respond
When your emotions are stirred up, it’s natural to respond quickly. Sometimes, we feel like it just burst out of us. But you always have a choice. When you feel an intense desire to react, breathe first. Take a slow, deep breath and relax. Think about what you heard the other person say and what clarification questions you can ask, rather than erupting. Breathing sounds like silly advice, but it’s helpful when you’re learning to be slow to speak and quick to listen.
Step 4: Slow Down Your Thinking
Fast thinking is often linked to unconscious biases and assumptions that can lead to emotional and reactionary responses. In some cases, when decisions need to be made quickly, you can rely on your intuition to think fast. But most of the time, thinking quickly can lead to unnecessary conflict and tension. So, learning to slow down your thinking allows you to really hear what others are saying. This gives you the chance to understand, evaluate, and interpret a situation rather than simply reacting.
Step 5: Move Forward
Awareness of your triggers and natural emotional responses is not enough. It’s also not enough to breathe and take a minute before you respond. You have to use this knowledge and time to practice a different response. This shows immense growth. It will make you and your team better as you put more emphasis on collaboration, team engagement, and authenticity. But it starts with you and your willingness to identify your triggers and emotional instincts. Growth hinges on your ability to then slow down your responses so that you can hear what your employees and colleagues are saying.
To learn more strategies that reduce conflict and increase team effectiveness, contact Front Line Leadership today. Our unique programs are designed to equip leaders to engage with their teams effectively by learning more about their own personalities and leadership styles.