It’s easy to remain confident when things are going well, you feel happy and in control of your life at home and at work. But when your plans go off-course, when you experience negative situations or difficult conversations, your level of confidence can really suffer. Tense situations often lead to difficult negotiations, and when your judgment is clouded by your emotions, it can feel like an impossible situation to get out of. A critical part of being a confident person is to remain secure in your abilities to help yourself get out of these type of situations without losing your belief in yourself.
So, how can you help yourself overcome similar situations in the future without taking other people’s opinions or criticism as a personal attack on you?
Use the LAST technique
When you feel cornered or confronted, try to mentally take a step back and not let your emotions get the best of you. One way to do that is to follow a process, forcing yourself to think and act in a more rational manner. The LAST technique is ideal for handling difficult confrontations either from a colleague, a client or a family member. The word ‘LAST’ is an abbreviation of the following verbs: Listen, Ask, Solve and Thank.
As the saying goes, we have 2 ears and only 1 mouth. So use your ears twice as much as your mouth. Make sure you are truly listening and not just hearing the words. If it’s difficult for you to understand why the other person is so upset or why they are so adamant with their opinion, use questions to make them explain their basis for confrontation. Asking questions shows that you’re open towards making improvements. Always write down any questions that come to you that you can’t immediately answer. Ask open questions, and ask for people’s opinions as to why something is the way it is. Avoid closed questions that can be easily answered with a yes or no.
- What seems to be the problem?
- Why would you say something like that?
- What makes you say that?
- How can I help you?
Try to reach the root issue or the pain point by mirroring back what it is that you understood. This will clarify the situation for the both of you and it gives you time to think about what you will say or do next. Hurry slowly to avoid simply reacting, but instead be proactive and mindful about your next steps.
- So, what you are saying is … (repeat back to them how you understand their sentiment)
- So, let me get this right … (careful with this, it may sound aggressive depending on the tone)
PS! If the person is very aggressive, you may use the following sentences to guide them to a more solutions-oriented conversation:
- I cannot accept that sort of abusive behavior towards me.
- I really want to help you, but your language / behavior is getting in the way. I understand you are frustrated. Please calm down so I can help.
- I will come back when you are able to speak and behave in a way that allows for a reasonable conversation.
Once you’ve understood what has upset the other person, it is important to acknowledge their pain and struggle, even if you are not personally responsible for it.
Almost like magic, apology has the power to repair harm, mend relationships, soothe wounds and heal broken hearts. Apology is not just a social nicety. It is an important ritual, a way of showing respect and empathy for the wronged person.Psychologytoday.com
Use phrases like this to apologize:
- I’m really sorry you’ve had a bad experience. I understand that you are frustrated, and I sincerely apologize for that, (name).
- Please understand that I never intended to cause you any inconvenience.
Even if you feel that someone is attacking you, instead of acting from a place of feeling threatened, you can ask that other person something to the effect of, “What do you think is the right thing to do right now?”. Collaboration always goes further than confrontation, and sometimes it’s wise to take a step backwards from your demands and opinions. A powerful person can do this because their confidence enables them to. It is important not to leave people alone with their worries and always help as much as it’s possible (incl. suggesting other people or resources that may be helpful to them).
Phrases to use if you can personally help them solve their problem:
- How can we make this right?
- Here’s what we’re going to do to solve this! [Explain…]
- How can I make this right?
- Here’s what I’m going to do to make this right for you!
Phrases to use if you can’t personally help them solve their problem:
- I’m not sure how to resolve this situation right now. I feel we might need another perspective on this. Let me speak to… (manager / supervisor/…).
- I’m not sure how to resolve this. Let me have a think and come back to you. I promise I will analyze what you are telling me and will come back to you soon.
Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, always remember to thank the other party for bringing up the issue and for speaking up. It would have been far worse if you’d never known about their strong feelings towards the situation or you, and they would have just resented you in silence. Most likely, they have brought up valid points that need your consideration for future improvements, and it is wise to show your gratitude for that valuable information.
- Thank you so much for letting me know about this situation.
- Many thanks, this is really helpful.
- Thank you for helping me to understand your view on this.
- Thanks for your understanding and for taking the time to go through this with me.
Practice using the powerful LAST technique to get the most positive outcome from a difficult situation. Remember that in any negotiation, there are 3 keys to success:
- Think how you can accept the person’s conviction or belief. You need to be able to say: “I understand that you see it that way…” Because, when a person feels that you don’t accept their conviction, they put their guard up and it’ll be much harder to get them on your side.
- Learn how to debate. It’s a good rule of thumb that 80% of people will usually take most of your words at face value, but the other 20% will be more or less skeptical. When debating with people like that, it is important to arouse their curiosity. In a meeting, make sure to actively ask for the opinion of those people who seem to be the most indifferent or “unexcited”, because either, they might not want to listen to you, or they might not trust you at all. Always prepare before an important meeting, gather plenty of information about the issue at hand, and structure it in that way that prepares you for any discussion.
- Practice listening more than talking. We are often so preoccupied about thinking what we’ll say next that we forget to actively listen. Just by being present and really trying to understand what the other person is saying to you, you have already improved the standard of the conversation.
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