What do you do if you’ve upset someone?
Category: Dealing with difficult situations
A client’s team member upset one of their colleagues the other day. They didn’t mean to; to be honest they hadn’t even realised it had happened. As far as they were concerned, they had made a throw away comment which wasn’t meant to be hurtful and had been made in jest … and they had forgotten all about it.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t received in jest, nor forgotten, and their colleague complained about what had happened.
The situation is still ongoing as I type, made worse by the team member’s reaction to the complaint. It got me thinking about how quickly we can leap to our own defence in these cases and, how when the subject is initially broached, the reaction can be anger.
If you’re told that you’ve upset someone there are a few things you can do to try to understand and not make the problem worse.
- THE most important is to listen to what they have to say. Not while mentally making notes of how wrong they are and formulating your defence but really listen to hear what they are saying. You may feel wronged yourself, or accused or defensive but if you don’t listen to what they are saying it’s going to be very hard to resolve the situation.
- Breathe deeply while you listen and if you feel you are getting upset or angry, thank them for bringing the problem to your attention (it’s much better than just telling everyone else how upset they are with you) and then remove yourself from the conversation until you’re calmer.
- Once you know and understand what they’re saying, apologise that this is how they see it. Don’t try to convince them that they are wrong but put your case to them. Use phrases like … “when you say/do XX I feel YY” rather than “you always do XX” or “you are XX”.
Remember that you can’t change the other person (people don’t change just because you want them to!) What you can do, is try to understand what has happened and change what you do or your reaction to it … that will elicit a different response.