Last month, I discussed the insults that may get tossed your way – either on purpose or by accident. Some people just seem to be insulting to you. I outlined the reasons that I thought might cause this kind of behavior and the possible motives behind such comments.
This month, I want to discuss your reaction to those comments, jabs, insinuations, and outright insults. How you handle these statements and the way you respond will say volumes about you to your colleagues, your employer, and your industry peers.
Keep Your Emotions Out of It
Getting angry does not help. Neither does feeling hurt. Try to stay detached from the comments in a way that does not allow them to continue. You may choose not to respond or change the subject. You may choose to respond (and if you do – keep it cordial). No matter what you do, take the tone back to center. If the negative comment turns the conversation, bring it back on track. Keep it positive. Do not go on the defensive. Reply something like “we can discuss that later” or “I can explain that, but not at this time, let’s get back on task”. Maybe even something like “there are more items that might impact us related to that topic, let’s chat later”.
Ask for Clarification
Do not challenge the person or even the comment (unless it is egregious), but you can ask a clarifying question. Something like “really, what makes you think that?” or “can you be more specific?”. Make sure that if you ask, you are ready to respond to even more pointed jabs. You should know the answer to any question you ask. Many times, the person will back down a little since they may not have the whole story. It may work, or it may not.
Think about what was said and see if there is any truth in any part of the comments. After you sift through the negative shroud of demeaning words, are there any nuggets of truth to be considered? Most often there will be something that anchors the comment to some area of need or shortcoming. It may be unfairly blown out of proportion, but it might be a real concern. Have you missed a deadline? Failed to communicate? Skipped over some step? It may not be anywhere near the concern that might be expressed by others, but you should address that sliver of fact that is mixed into the forest of negativity. Take that sliver and work on avoiding it in the future.
Get Over It
Do you overreact to the comments? Do you let them bother you beyond the proper level? Having a thicker skin and not letting the comments impact you (more than they should) will assist in you moving forward even when the tide is slightly against you. Annoying comments that continue to badger you can get under your skin. Work to not allow that. Once you have sifted for the nugget of truth and found it, let go of the rest of the comments and try to forget them. It might be harder than you think, but if you start dwelling on the negative words, they start eating away at your professional connections. Change the subject in your head and think of something else. Just move on.
There is No Truth in that Statement (let me clarify)
When someone makes a flat out false statement or one that is totally uninformed, you DO need to address it. Be cordial and direct. Restate the comment and then clarify. Example: “what I am hearing is that there is a connection between the specific changes I made and the delay in production? Is that correct?” This is a restatement and an opportunity for them to clarify or get more specific. You can then say, “I think we can all see the production problem is not related to the actions taken. While I do not agree with your perspective, I am open to that possibility and it should be corrected. Let’s take a look at it again with the production manager. Now let’s get back to the topic of design issues.”
By keeping your cool and addressing peoples concern/comment head on, you buy time and increase your credibility going forward.