It took me years of practice to get to a place where I can WAIT before I respond to things that trip my emotional wires.
When someone talks over me in a meeting, I no longer feel the need to talk louder to retake control. When someone shoots down my idea, I can listen and get curious (not ALWAYS, but most of the time).
I used to jump into action when someone was upset, playing the role of peacekeeper, using my Harmony strength to find consensus and smooth ruffled feathers. This meant that no one, and I mean NO ONE, was allowed to go to bed angry. No one was allowed to stomp off in the middle of a meeting without me trailing behind to fix him or her. No one was allowed to have a hissy fit, throw a pillow across the room, or lock themselves in the bathroom. I was right there asking if you were okay and trying to fix it.
All that is fine when you’re hanging with your significant other or BFF, but sometimes you have to let it go at work.
You may be a natural peacekeeper, like me. You may be a middle child, or a child whose parents went through a divisive divorce, or have Harmony in your top Strengths. I have the latter two.
Although I lean toward natural Harmony, I learned to control it so I could use it to build consensus but not be a slave to other people’s emotions. Wanna learn some awesome tips and tricks?
Look at the UN Peacekeepers, trained to do a job. Put on your blue hat and follow me!
Who plays the peacekeeper?
The peacekeeper is the one who glues the team together. She’s able to find consensus.
To sometimes stir up the pot in order to get you to share good ideas before you all settle on something mediocre because you’re intimidated by the one strong personality in the room.
To take disparate views and put them into a pros/cons list or compare/contrast list or before/after list of some sort.
When people speak up, disagree, dismiss, and disregard ideas, when we talk over one another, interrupt, and interrogate, she is able to make a list of pros and cons.
She may also be the one who cannot stand to go to bed angry. Avoid personal confrontation at all costs. Be so uncomfortable with unease on the team that she has to leave the room. She’s the one who would rather jump in front of a bullet than think someone is unhappy with her.
Let’s get inspired by the shift an army goes through to move from a killing mission (competition where I-win-you-lose) to a peacekeeping one (collaboration where we work together).
Here are some ways to stay calm under pressure, to bring two sides together or at least keep them from killing one another.
Don’t be a slave to other people’s emotions
Responding rather than reacting to conflict does take quite a bit of self control.
Peacekeepers are great at controlling what they think, but they don’t get that way by just showing up. They train, they practice, they plan.
When a protester throws something at them, they know that this is not about them. They don’t take it personally. But what happens to you when someone throws a tomato?
Sounds like: I don’t like that idea. I don’t think that will work. That will never go over with customers. We could never do that. No no no no no.
Any time you hear no, you can think of it as a tomato thrown at your efforts and take it personally OR you can be a peacekeeper, step back, and look at it objectively.
I imagine the fire safety public service announcements when I’m in these situations, trying to stay calm even though my head is on fire with emotions.
- Stop your emotional reaction by taking a deep breath. I’ll be honest, this may be the hardest thing you ever learn to do and one of the most gratifying. If you can learn to quiet the emergency alarm bells in your head, you will be heard in a totally different way. Instead of being reactionary, you’ll be recognized for keeping a cool head under pressure.
- Drop your defenses. Instead of getting defensive, responding with a list of reasons why you’re right, or talking louder—get curious. Ask a question. Try to really understand what’s going on.
- Roll toward a more intentional response. Choose how to respond: Will you stand firm and respond with a clear statement? Or will you get curious and ask a question?
Here’s how you can go FROM triggered TO control:
- You want one price and your customer wants a lower price.
Will you get clear or curious?
BE CLEAR: I’d be happy to scale back the proposal for you to get that price.
BE CURIOUS: How did you come up with that number?
- Your engineers say there’s no way to meet the deadline you’ve outlined.
BE CLEAR: I’d like you to stick with the original plan.
BE CURIOUS: What has changed since our original scope to make this deadline slip?
- Your boss wants everyone to focus on a new project and dump the old one when it’s halfway done.
BE CLEAR: I’d like to be sure you understand where we are in the project.
BE CURIOUS: Why are we switching gears now?
- Your significant other wants to save for a down payment on a house and you want to travel.
BE CLEAR: I’m not ready to settle down.
BE CURIOUS: What is it about a house that you find so appealing?
Deciding which way to Roll will help your peacekeeping efforts but do it in a way that helps you stay in control.
Too much harmony can ruin creativity
Watch out for the peacekeeper that is uncomfortable when teams fight. She may rush you to consensus too quickly.
She may think, “We waste too much time trying to convince one another of our own views instead of looking for areas of agreement and building consensus on them.”
Instead, allow that tension, that disagreement, to go on a little longer than usual. Imagine you’re on a boat in a big storm. After the storm, you may come out with a great idea that would otherwise be watered down.
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