No matter your job title, from file clerk to CEO, you have most likely at one time or another had the urge to take an action that would be immediately gratifying making you feel good for at least a minute anyway. However, deep down inside you knew that you had better count to 10 before acting with your gut instead of your head.
What can make a grown businessperson want to act spontaneously without thinking of the consequences? The list is likely endless. Example: A customer calls you and wants a better price for the fifth time in the same month. While listening to this utterly insulting request, a little voice in your head is saying, “Tell this numskull to take his or her business and put it somewhere a professional should never suggest.”
How about this one? An employee walks into your office and makes a demand, which you think is inane and utterly overreaching be it a promotion, a raise or a threat to walk out the door unless a specific requirement is instantly met. Your first thought is to tell the employee to go buy a tall three-legged stool so that he or she does not get too tired standing in the long unemployment lines.
In a verbal confrontation, time is your best weapon. By continuing to listen without interrupting, you accomplish two things. First, just like a child throwing a temper tantrum, your confronter will quickly run out of steam if you don’t jump in. Remember, it takes two to have an argument. Secondly, if you listen closely, you’ll get a clearer idea of what the real issue is. Most people don’t say what they really mean or can’t articulate their position especially when they are slobbering as they rant. Therefore, you must be an effective interpreter. While maintaining your self-imposed vow of silence, contemplate if what is being asserted warrants a response or if doing so at that moment will just further inflame this unwelcome encounter. Once you figure that out, you can construct a more thoughtful rebuttal but on your timetable.
I bet many executives have fantasized about simply walking out on this type of intruder just for the pure enjoyment of doing so. Turning off the lights and slamming the door would be an appropriate exclamation point to the episode. Most leaders, however, have built-in “circuit breakers” that safeguard against seeking impetuous retribution.
Unpleasant e-mails present a different challenge. Here is an easy and fulfilling technique to handle a particularly nasty cyberspace message without doing permanent damage. As a bonus, this exercise can even prove to be therapeutic, as well. When an e-mail sets you off, instead of precipitously retaliating, try this. Step one: Click on the “forward” button. Step two: Craft your response the more vitriolic, the better. Say it from your heart without regret. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet so use them creatively by typing things you have only dreamed of writing. When your keyboard frenzy ends, this cathartic experience will provide a feeling of serenity, albeit too short-lived.
You’re thinking does this technique make sense. Read on.
Because you hit “forward” instead of “reply,” your e-mail isn’t going anywhere because the “to” field is empty. Voilà, your get even but never sent e-mail didn’t do any irreparable harm that spontaneous responses can inflict. Certainly save your draft e-mail for reconsideration or future self-indulgence. However, in the meantime, you’ll gain time to think of a more rational “censored” reply. Sometimes after deliberation, much like in a one-sided verbal argument, you’ll conclude that no response is the best response. The real message to the sender is you’re not dignifying absurd comments with a return volley. Talk about revenge; this subtle form gets the job done in spades.
Instant communication is a part of today’s business culture. However, learning to creatively stop and count to 10 may ensure that you’re not the one who goes down for the 10 count. By putting a lid on your feelings, you can many times gain control of an incendiary situation. A short pause could give you the opportunity to find a solution that allows you to have your cake and eat it, too, without suffering any indigestion.
Michael Feuer co-founded OfficeMax in 1988. Starting with one store and $20,000 of his own money during a 16-year span, Feuer, as CEO, grew the company to almost 1,000 stores worldwide with annual sales of approximately $5 billion before selling it for almost $1.5 billion in December 2003 to Boise Cascade Corp. Feuer is CEO of Max-Ventures, a retail venture capital/consulting firm, and co-founder and co-CEO of Max-Wellness, a new health care product retail chain concept that is launching in 2009. Feuer serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards and is a frequent speaker on business, marketing and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Reach him with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.