By Marlene Chism, consultant, speaker and author.
There are many ways that drama can affect workplace relationships. One way that I often discuss in my workshops is how to stop taking the bait. You know what I mean. It’s those times when you put your foot in your mouth, or you get drawn into an argument or communication exchange that you later regret, yet it happens again and again.
It’s like you are a big carp swimming in a river and you see this juicy worm and you bite the hook. The other person is the fisherman who reels you in.
Even when you learn to identify the bait and you swim right past that juicy worm, just a few miles downstream you see a juicy piece of cheesecake and before you know it, you are being reeled in again. It’s funny how those who love to pull our triggers know just what bait to use. If you get wise to the worm, they figure cheesecake will work.
In your personal life, it could be your mother and her famous “Well hello stranger” every time you call. You feel angry because instead of appreciating your call, you get the guilt trip for not calling more often. It’s the subtle innuendo of calling you “stranger” that triggers you. You spend your time either apologizing or explaining, all the while regretting that you called in the first place.
In your professional life, it can be the employee who keeps showing up in your office with yet another complaint or another life “catastrophe” that keeps her from performing to her ability. You feel sorry for her, so you spend way too much time addressing her issues, or you give her more leniency than you should. Soon your kindness backfires when she calls out sick again or totally ignores all the advice you gave her.
If you want to stop being reeled in, follow these steps:
- Increase your awareness. Awareness is always the first step. You must first recognize the trigger. If you find yourself already drawn in, take some time after the communication exchange to examine just exactly what happened to get you to respond the way you did. If you can recognize the pattern, you can be prepared for the next time.
- Offer no reaction. There are only a couple of good responses to drama. The first option is to offer no reaction. When you respond with sarcasm, argument or any other form of manipulation, such as a deep sigh or eye-roll, you just bit the bait. Withdraw from the temptation to get the last word or to prove the other person wrong. Simply take a breath and offer no response.
- Listen and acknowledge. If you are offered another “test” it will likely be a little more tempting to react. Instead, hear what the person says, and acknowledge their feelings. For example, say “Wow. That must feel terrible,” “It sounds like you are frustrated with me,” or “It sounds like you need some space.”
- Ask an empowering question. After you have tried the first two responses and the other person continues to complain, blame or offer drama, ask an empowering question. For example, “What do you want to happen?,” “What are your choices?,” or “How do you want me to support you in this?”
After that you have to set a boundary about how much drama you are willing to be around or engage in. Everyone wants to be heard, for sure, but as a leader you must have the compassion to listen but the wisdom to not get drawn into the drama story.
When you refuse to be drawn into the drama, your employees will notice and emulate your behavior. That will lead to improved workplace relationships.
Marlene Chism is a dynamic business and motivational speaker and communications consultant. She is also the author of No-Drama Leadership. You can read her blog and sign up for her newletter at http://marlenechism.com.
Photo Credit: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/fish-bait-2-1350829