Brainfood: Your route to the top calming the storm

Don't take offence. People often don't mean what they say in the heat of the moment. Either let it pass or ask an open question that gives them a chance to put it in less emotive words. Avoid the caustic opener: 'It's 6pm and I still can't see any sign of the report. Am I supposed to guess what's in it?' Sarcasm may satisfy an instant urge, but it will set the discussion off in a direction from which it will be hard to recover.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Mind-reading is for psychics. Best to ask direct, open questions to find out what the other person is really thinking - eg, 'When you say "we", do you actually mean me?'

Stick to specifics. 'That business head was unconvinced on this occasion', rather than 'the business heads are against everything we're trying to do'. It's easier to resolve issues that are temporary and specific.

Careful how you allocate blame. If you need to place it somewhere, best to go for something intangible (the brief was unclear), inanimate (technology is a favourite) or a vague body of people (the conservative forces against change).

Keep the consequences in perspective. This probably isn't the end of the world and we're going to need to work together afterwards. Exaggeration by one person tends to elicit over-reaction by everyone else.

Spot the style. Some people like using images and metaphors. Others prefer logic and the undisputed facts. When we find we're in vehement disagreement, it's usually because we're saying the same things in a different way.

Spot the other person's preferred style and adapt to it.

Keep the emotions in one difficult conversation from spilling into the next. The budget review may have been painful, but we need to be careful not to take this out on our team in the weekly meeting (or our partner when we get home).

Separate the issue from the person. 'The pitch was badly received' will get a very different reaction from 'Mark is a hopeless salesperson'.

The Mind Gym, www.themindgym.com.

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