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How Do You Let Others Know You’ve Been Impacted by Something They Said? Part I

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How Do You Let Others Know You’ve Been Impacted by Something They Said? Part I

The number of times I hear stories where people are upset with how they’ve been spoken to either one-on-one or in a group, and they don’t know how to let the other person know they’re upset continues to surprise and concern me.

As Small Business owners, we need to know how to have these conversations with staff, consultants, suppliers and customers (and family and friends). This article, the first of three, will explore how to have these conversations while staying in control of yourself.

Recently I met Marie. She’s been working for 30 years, loves contributing to businesses, both big and small, yet she’s currently frustrated with how she has been spoken to by a regular customer – Les. On reflection, Marie realised this has been going on for 18 months. Previously, Les’ behaviour towards her didn’t worry her, but now it does. Marie came to me looking for tips on how to manage this situation.

Marie’s customer appears, from her perspective, to need always to be right; good ideas always need to be his, and he needs to be seen having the ‘power’. Here’s what I recommended to Marie, and these tips can be used by every Small Business owner, in any situation.

Firstly, and I always recommend this as the first step (and yes, I do it too), is to plan a conversation where you identify the inappropriate behaviour/comment. The purpose of this conversation will be to explain to the other person the change in behaviour and/or the actual behaviour you have observed that you’re uncomfortable with.

But it won’t be all about you …

And here’s how the conversation is different from other tips you may hear about. Start the conversation by expressing your concern for the other person.

Marie could start like this,

“Les, in last week’s meeting with your staff, I felt you belittled me in front of your team for not having completed my work on time, and that was after we had talked about me being unable to meet the deadline due to an IT issue. Then, earlier this week when we spoke about the December marketing plan your comment that you were ‘waiting to see me cry’ took me by surprise. Both of these actions/behaviours are out of character for you. Is everything okay with you?”

It is at this point where one of two things will happen. Les will:

  1. Admit things are not okay with him; or
  2. Say that everything is fine with him.

Things are not okay with him.

If Les’ response is along the lines of number one, then depending on your relationship with him you can respond in a number of ways:

  • Listen
  • Recommend he talk with a counsellor who is skilled in helping people going through a tough time (something we all experience sometime in our life).
  • Have him consider if he needs to take time off work.
  • Talk through the impact of his current behaviours and discuss how he can let you know he’s not coping; it could be a word or signal which indicates to you that he needs assistance to remove himself from the current situation.
  • Ask if he’d like anyone else to know what he has shared with you.

It is surprising that when I recommend we start with the ‘People First’ strategy, many in this situation haven’t given consideration to the other person’s well-being. We should remember our staff, consultants, suppliers and customers are people too and may be going through a rough patch.

Having this type of conversation in an earnest manner minimises the potential for aggression or conflict as you are taking the time to show you care about the person. In situations where I’ve asked this question of others, and they’ve shared personal details which were impacting their working life, it enabled them to talk about their issues, or they realised they need to talk about their issues with a professional. Although I’m not a counsellor, I’ve been able to listen and work with people like Les to come up with a plan (similar to points b-e above).

After these conversations, our relationship changes – it becomes one built on a higher level of respect and trust.

But alas, this is not always the cause of poor behaviours in the workplace.

A few years ago, when I stepped into a new role as a manager in a team where one team member – Jody – wasn’t doing as asked, I started the conversation the same way as I recommended above for Marie. But when I was talking with Jody, she said she enjoyed coming to work, liked the team she worked with and life was going well.

Once I was comfortable that Jody was well, and that ‘everything was fine’, I continued by addressing her inappropriate behaviours.

I’ll share how I managed that conversation in my next article.

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