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3 Ways To Avoid The Communication Panic Switch

Posted on October 17, 2012 by Leslie Dickson

My best friend got her dream job in July. It was a perfect fit to her expertise, yet still stretched her beyond her current comfort zone. She would have the opportunity to make a difference in an organization that was growing by leaps and bounds – a big difference from her previous job that caused her to spend her day in complete boredom.

Fast-forward three months…all hell seems to be breaking loose in the dream job. There are new leaders in the organization, and their names are Chaos, Stress and Tension. The reactions from the employees are classic – poor communication, hurt feelings and panic. Actually, I heard that a mutiny is in the works. My friend asked me, “What am I supposed to do?”

My advice to her, and to anyone else facing a challenging situation, is this:

#1 Don’t Get Hooked

The easiest reaction to have when the people around you are in panic mode is to get hooked into their emotions too. It’s the classic “push-push back” reaction. “If you come at me, then I will retaliate back,” or “You can’t treat me like this, so I’ll show you!”

If you get emotionally hooked, you are likely to give up your strength and personal power. Instead (and this is far from easy), stay calm, get grounded, breathe and focus the big picture (your vision, goals, values, etc.) Now is the time to ask questions, clarify, and listen. Start to consider actions that will meet the needs of the situation and move you in the direction of the big picture. See the pattern? Turn off the reactionary auto-pilot, or else you will be knee deep in the mess along with everyone else.

#2 Show Some Compassion

When smart, experienced and fair people change their behavior and become raving lunatics – it’s a pretty fair assumption that they are under incredible pressure from another source. If they are yelling at you to do your job, chances are they are getting yelled at from higher ups to do their job. What would happen if you acknowledge the pressure they are feeling, validate their pain, and show some empathy? It might change the behavior coming your way. Or, at the very least, it will be remembered that you took the time to notice what was going on with them. Just think, wouldn’t you like to be acknowledged for a job well done when all you hear is criticism? Do you think you are the only one who hopes for this?

#3 What Do You Want Others’ To Say?

When you don’t know what to do in a challenging situation, it is a good time for some personal reflection. Ask yourself, “How do I want others to describe me?” If you could be a fly on the wall and could hear how everyone else talked about you, what would make you smile at their description? Do words like hard worker, professional, level-headed, even fun, come to mind? If so, all you need to do is behave in a way that demonstrates or supports these descriptors. It may not be easy, but it is simple and powerful. Your actions follow your thoughts. So, when you think “open” you will show up more “open.”

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