Second that Emotion: What to Do After You Get Pounced On

Recently, a client had the experience of being lambasted by a colleague. His colleague was furious but the circumstances were fixed: my client couldn’t give him what he wanted.

In that moment of being pounced on, my client choked—he couldn’t think how to formulate a response that didn’t sound argumentative. .

Sound familiar? Anybody?

Unfortunately, many of us can tell a similar story. What should you do? Acknowledging the emotion underneath what’s being said can help them hear you.

For example, suppose your colleague/client/boss is berating you for not keeping them in the information loop. This might sound like,

“I can’t believe you didn’t fill me in on X! You’re not senior to me/you work for me! This is unacceptable!” 

While your instinct might be to jump in and defend yourself, your cohort can’t ‘hear’ you yet. He or she has worked up a head of steam and until that’s acknowledged, you need to table any excuse or explanation.

How do I recommend you reply? I’d begin with:

“I absolutely understand your frustration. If I were sitting where you are, I’d be angry, too.”

Validating their frustration—in essence, agreeing with them—before attempting to explain anything to them is critical to getting them to hear anything else you might say.

Truly; and while it may not stop the speaker cold, seconding their emotion does mitigate the madness….and now you can begin to problem-solve.

Frances Jones Cole signature