People Behaving “Badly” (and what we can do about it)

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Protesters

As you probably know, people behaving “badly” have made the news headlines this week.

These people include:

  • World leaders
  • Groups of armed protestors
  • Terrorists

When people behave “badly” they can hurt people.

I’m hurt.

Maybe you’re hurt

The world is hurting.

We must understand that when people behave “badly” it’s a much, much deeper issue.

Hurt people hurt people.

But, as leaders, we get to stand 100% responsible. Perhaps not for the circumstances, per se, but for how we respond to these circumstances.

Difficult conversations get to be had

There are valuable lessons to be learned.

Case in point, this week I spoke on the subject of how to deal with difficult people at a very prestigious California university.

As I read the book Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst, the author discusses that fear, anxiety, and aggression steam from the amygdala, the “critter brain.” When someone is operating from this state, it’s a “me against the world” mentality.

So I ask this question…

How, as leaders, can we support others who are difficult/upset before the situation escalates? (Because, according to Behave, there is a ‘snap’ that happens in the brain seconds before violent or aggressive behavior.)

Here’s 3 ways to support difficult people, which I shared at my leadership training this week, and I wanted to share with you as well.

  1. Empathy. Work to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference. Otherwise, put yourself in ‘their shoes.’
  2. Partner from the start. Conversations are a way to support people who are stressed, fearful, anxious, or angry. Showing someone that you are on their side, their partner, if you will, is a way to support them in regaining calmness. Starting off acknowledging where they are, such as “I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. Let’s see how we can work together.” Having intimate conversations with individuals, sharing stories, building relationship, builds connection and trust. Support them in reframing ‘me/us against you/them/the world’ to ‘we are in this together.’
  3. Listening and restating what you heard. I can confidently say that 100% of conflicts that happen socio-politically, and even in our own home, happen because one or more parties doesn’t feel ‘seen or heard.’ Listening and sharing what you heard is the biggest gift we can give another human.

Obviously there are no easy answers, and leading your team, your family, and your community can be a delicate dance.

What I do know to be true: personal and cultural transformation is on the other side of difficult conversations.

With that, what’s one conversation you get to have today?

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