When Grace thinks I’m upset with her, her tail goes between her back legs. She cowers lower to the ground. Her ears retreat and she has this guilty, shameful look.
I imagine my own signals of distress are not that obvious. Others might see my face begin to blush but they can’t see my heart about to jump outside of my body because of how hard and loud it is beating.
It’s important that we recognize those signals, for ourselves, but also for others.
This week I had occasion to witness several interactions where one person in the room was feeling threatened by another person. It wasn’t a fist fight or anything dramatic, in fact, fairly subtle signs surfaced, but it was there. I could tell that the person was feeling less than supported by the conversation. It’s not a great feeling for whoever is on the receiving end.
The individual dishing out the language is feeling better for having voiced their opinion and I’m all in favor of making sure you share all feedback — whether good, bad, or indifferent.
Yet the manner in which it is done is so critical for the outcomes. You shouldn’t sugar coat feedback, nor should you say something positive if it’s not accurate. But you need to be respectful, keeping in mind that the other person has their own perspective, which has validity and should be acknowledged and explored.
When a person feels backed into a corner, it’s hard to come out gracefully. One way is to cower, like Grace tends to do, and just give in. But no one wins because the real issues have not been addressed.
Long-lasting solutions will only happen when the parties begin to think about the problem creatively, and with curiosity, as opposed to throwing out self-motivated fixes. Do whatever you can to have all the parties participate in the resolution.
When you’re barking loud enough to put someone in a corner, think about ways to back off to allow room for the discussion.