Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 7, Personal AttacksWritten by Steve Kaye
Personal attacks hurt people, mar communication, and end creativity. If they become part of a meeting's culture, they drive participants into making safe and perhaps useless contributions.
Approach 1: Speak to group
Set stage for group to enforce its culture by making a general comment. Look at middle of group and say:
"Just a moment. Let's pause here to calm down. I can tell we're upset about this. And we want to find a fair solution for everyone." (Take slow deep breaths and relax to model calming down.)
After saying this, pause a moment to let group respond. Often, someone else will support your request. Then continue as if everything were normal.
Avoid looking at attacker when speaking to group. Making eye contact acknowledges and returns power to attacker.
Approach 2: Explore for cause
Sometimes people throw insults from behind a fence of presumed safety. You can disrupt this illusion by saying:
"Chris, you seem upset with that."
"Pat, you seem to disagree."
"You seem to have reservations about this."
I realize these statements may sound like naive responses to an insult. However, such understated responses improve situation because they sound less threatening, feel easier to deliver, and preserve other person's self-esteem. Realize attacker may have viewed attack less seriously than it sounded.
These statements also transfer focus from target to attacker's feelings. And this is what you need to talk about in order to resolve dispute.
Managing Monsters in Meetings - Part 1, General Strategies for Unproductive BehaviorWritten by Steve Kaye
It happens easily. You're conducting a meeting and suddenly a small side meeting starts. Then someone introduces an unrelated issue. Someone else ridicules new issue. Everyone laughs, except person who mentioned idea. Then someone insults person who told joke. Two people stand up and walk out. Others complain that meeting is a waste of time.
Now, what do you do?
And how do you prevent this sort of thing from happening?
Or what could you have done to stop it once it started?
Here are basic strategies for dealing with unproductive behavior in meetings.
Respect other people. Always treat others with respect, even if they are doing things that seem wrong. Their "bad" behavior could be based on many things, such as a lack of skill, a misunderstanding, or a response to a threat. It could also be a simple mistake. Or maybe they're expressing an indirect warning, complaint, or cry of pain. If you respond with disrespect, such as with a counterattack, you will make a bad situation worse. They will either retreat, which means they stop contributing to your meeting, or they will retaliate, which can escalate to an argument that ruins your meeting.
Ask questions. Use questions to find out what is really happening. For example, when someone introduced a new issue, you could have responded by saying, "That sounds interesting, and I wonder how that relates to what we are working on." Notice that this is a neutral, gentle question. It is not a trick question like, "What are your trying to do, ruin my meeting?" and it is not a command like, "Hey, stick to topic." Both of these (hostile) responses put other person in an awkward position, which is a form of disrespect.