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Chapter 5. Keeping Your Feet on the Grou... > Avoid the Lowest Common Denominator - Pg. 49

Keeping Your Feet on the Ground with Difficult People 49 Slow Down Your Talk and Responses You can avoid getting caught up in the moment when communicating with a difficult or nasty person by slowing yourself down. This means deliberately slowing down the pace of your speech. By speaking more slowly, you give your rational brain a chance to think rather than allowing your emo- tions to take control. Insider Secrets Believe it or not, managers actually do really dumb things. I once worked for a manager who, on the surface, was a gentle, considerate, ex-hippie-type guy. Lovable. Except for the fact that in private conversations he would swear at employees, accuse them of various nefarious deeds, and do other strange things. I suppose he thought nobody would find out. Perhaps he felt that if employees were difficult, he would be more so. At one time the work unit had 17 people. Under his leadership it ended up with three. Apart from slowing down your speech, allow more time between the moment when the other person stops talking and when you start. Use that time to think and figure out a constructive way to respond. Slowing things down also can contribute to a less-urgent feel to the conversation, which can help the other person regain self-control. You can learn how to do this. It's easy if you remind yourself. Listen and Paraphrase When people get into heated or potentially emotional discussions, they don't tend to listen. What they do is start preparing their responses while the other person is talking. That isn't going to help you. Rather than figuring out what you are going to say while someone is talking, try your best to listen and understand. The listening mind-set will help slow you down, and also slow down a difficult person trying to steamroll you. After you have heard what the other person said, paraphrase it back to him or her. Again, this slows down the interaction and gives you more time to think, and also shows the person you are making an effort to understand. By using your thinking brain rather than your emotional brain, you're less likely to get knocked off-balance or to sink to the lowest common denominator. Call Time-Out If you feel you're getting too angry or annoyed to react constructively, call a time-out. Either schedule a better time when you (and hopefully the other person) will have had a chance to calm down. Even a short five-minute break for coffee can work well. Regroup. Think. Calm down. Then return.