Crisis communication – What do I do when difficult interlocutors keep upsetting me?

Who wouldn’t be familiar with the following situation? You go into a conversation fully prepared and intent on a collaborative, solution-focused interaction. Yet, suddenly you find yourself triggered by the person across from you and go into an emotional tailspin. This unleashes major stress in you, causing you to completely lose your stride.

In such situations, we wish we had better composure. But not in the sense of “keeping our cool” and thereby appearing cold, but rather by responding authentically and with confidence. 

Is that something that can be learned? Yes, it is! 

The solution lies on two different levels: the attitude level and the ability level. Both are preceded by self-reflection. Who are we? What makes us “tick”? What triggers us?

Choosing this approach can help us to work on our attitude. It’s helpful and beneficial to adopt the basic assumption of positive intention. This refers to the benefits or gains that lie behind a behavior or situation. What does our interlocutor gain through their behavior? What needs are they seeking to have fulfilled? Making the conversation difficult for us may not be their goal at all, but rather a “by-product.” In a situation like this, just ask yourself what your counterpart is trying to get out of it, and how they are showing up for it. 

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: “A person who annoys us, dominates us.” Is that what we want? Certainly not. Which is why it helps to carry the conviction that we are the only ones who have power over our feelings. We are the ones who can decide how we feel and what we want to be angry about or feel cornered by.

At the ability level, we must learn better self-awareness and self-efficacy. This is how we learn to trust in ourselves. Methods for improving our repartee, communication, humor and composure, and for coping with stress, support us on a practical level.

Ask yourself: When have I stayed calm in a difficult conversation? How did I manage that? Explore your success patterns and activate them.

I cordially invite you to embark on your personal journey of exploration – few things are more exciting and enlightening than such a journey. And should you have any questions or run into any personal roadblocks along your path, please feel free to contact me. It will be my heartfelt pleasure to support you in redefining these roadblocks as stepping stones – so you can simply leave them behind you or clear them from your path.

Keep in mind that while clearing obstacles from your path may leave you with a few temporary scratches or bruises – like hiking up a rocky mountain – you’ll arrive at the top as an effective agent who can proudly take in the fabulous view and enjoy the peace it affords.

Should you need support throughout this process, remember I’m here for you as a stepping stone out of any crisis.

Your crisis manager, Anke Stein.

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