Advertising
Advertising

Defusing a Relationship Bomb

Defusing a Relationship Bomb
Defusing a Relationship Bomb

    Relationship Bombs. We hit them all of the time – or rather they hit us. They are tensions ready to snap, anger ready to boil over or cold, calculated vengeance waiting for opportunity. A relationship bomb is on the brink of exploding in most confrontations because people simply don’t understand each other.

    This is our first mistake. We look at a conflict and all we can see is an incident or a situation that can be solved. We are in an angry altercation with someone and we try to fix it straight away by doing something. Practical measures might have stopped the problem before it happened, but now it is too late. Really, the only way to make peace is to defuse the bomb first, and here is how it is done.

    Try this example. You sit down at your colleague’s work station to quickly check something while the service guy works on your computer. You close a window and temporarily lose a file for your colleague and she is furious. Of course you can offer to search around and retrieve it but she won’t listen. Her blood is boiling, her pulse is rising and it looks like any minute you might see Mt. Vesuvius erupting through her eyes. Practical solutions are not going to help because you simply don’t understand how she feels. It is not about the lost file anymore. There is something going on in her personal world that is making the bomb tick.

    The only solution is to deal with the understanding issue before it gets out of hand. The best way to do this, and walk away with a productive relationship, takes time. If you don’t have the time, then try some other way to make peace but you are going to lose in the long run. Until we try to understand the other person, an issue will never be fully solved, and may well come back to bite us later.

    Here is one way to make sure you understand the other person. I call it Tedious Reflection, simply because it is tedious and it involves reflecting what you hear from the other person. This is not the same as the manipulative reflection that is supposed to build rapport with others. All we are doing here is asking if we understand the other person. If we don’t then we ask again and again and again slowly getting closer and closer to full understanding.

    Advertising

    So you lose your colleague’s file and you carefully ask her:

    You: “Can I solve this by finding your file for you? Will that make everything OK ?”

    Sue: “Of course it won’t, you lazy………”

    You: “So is the problem that I am a lazy….”

    Advertising

    Sue: “No, that just makes you lose files. The problem is that this is the fourth time that…”

    You: “So is the problem that people keep abusing your generosity?”

    Sue: “No I haven’t been generous, it is just that they assume that I will be.”

    You: “So people have just been walking in here and using your desktop like I did.”

    Advertising

    Sue: “Yes, and they wouldn’t have done that if I was a jerk like Steven”

    and so it goes on, and after a tedious process of dragging the understanding out of your colleague, her tempo gradually reduces, her colour changes back to normal and she visibly relaxes a little. At the end, you understand that the actual incident was just the flash-point. Really she cared very little about the file and so finding it again was not a big issue. It all came down to a bunch of other things happening in her world that now you have a better understanding of.

    This sort of confrontation is not for the weak-hearted because you may cop a lot of anger along the way. In effect, what you are asking is “What is making you angry?”. The problem with this is that only part of any situation is actually directly related to you. Usually there will be contributing factors from all over the place that you will be hit with, in the flurry of communication.

    You will never reach 100% understanding with another human unless you are physically joined by the brain. The best that you can hope for is maybe 90%. But this is a lot better than most people ever experience in their haste. You will know you are there, when you carefully ask your colleague. “Have I got this right? Do I understand correctly? You feel…..” and then they agree. That is close enough for what we want. If the other person is ready to agree that you have heard and understood them, then solving the practical things will be easy.

    Advertising

    The whole process may have been tedious and time consuming. You may have felt awkward and embarrassed. No matter what, you will walk away with a defused Relationship Bomb, a way towards a workable solution to the underlying problem, and probably a strengthened and trusting relationship. If nothing else, this exercise will show that you have integrity in your relationships and that you are trying to set up a way that you can both walk away with dignity.

    Try it today.

    More by this author

    How to Choose the Perfect Gift Defusing a Relationship Bomb Bad Habits Aren’t All Bad Treat Your Email Like Snail Mail and Walk Away with change 3 doors to instant relaxation

    Trending in Communication

    1The Gentle Art of Saying No 217 Ted Talks for Kids to Inspire Little Minds to Do Big Things 310 Toxic Persons You Should Just Get Rid Of 4Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts 5Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

    Advertising

    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

    Advertising

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    Advertising

    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Advertising

    Read Next