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Getting positive results from difficult situations – how do you get them?

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This article links to my last one on attitudes and behaviour, in which we looked at how emotional we can become when faced with a difficult situation.  This article focuses on turning difficult situations around by understanding attitudes and values and so someone’s behaviour.  The focus is on getting positive results from difficult situations.

If you remember the scenario I left you with:

I had a really difficult situation some time ago at work, delivering a course for a FTSE 100 company, on which a delegate asked me if he could leave on day 1 at 3:00pm. The organisation was really hot on finish times, they didn’t like courses finishing early, so I was in a awkward position. How did I get a positive result from this difficult situation?

To try and gain some thinking time, always a good idea, I asked the guy why he needed to leave at 3:00pm. He replied that he was a dog breeder, that his bitch was at a fertile time and he needed to be home by 5:30pm, because the owner of another dog was bringing him over to mate.

We previously looked at the difference between someone’s attitude and their behaviour.  Behaviours are real, and as such can be heard, seen or even felt.  In comparison, attitudes are the responses to situations that might drive someone’s behaviour, which we are not party to, and may not understand.

In this scenario the delegate is:Getting positive results from difficult situations

  1. Asking for two and a half hours off work
  2. Making a polite request
  3. Asking permission from someone that does not have the power to give it
  4. Making the request in a public forum

 

I really had to deal with points 1 and 3 in this scenario, because the impact of 4 on me would have been highly negative.  Again, how did I get a positive result from this negative situation?

The fact that the delegate was making his request politely, allowed me an opportunity to build our relationship through some direct praise, once I had responded to the request.

What should I do?  Which of the delegate’s behaviours needed to be changed or maintained?  In the first place, it was inappropriate to ask for two and a half hours off work at the start of the course, and secondly, for the delegate to ask the tutor, who couldn’t give permission to give exactly that!

What was the impact of that behaviour?  It put me in a difficult position, as all the other delegates might then have reasons to go early.  In addition,  the FTSE 100 company that commissioned the training expected all their staff to stay for the duration of the agreed course. It also delayed the start of the course for all fifteen people, which could have had an effect on the amount of time spent on certain aspects of the material.

How did this make me feel?

I felt frustrated, angry, annoyed, embarrassed, uneasy and worried.getting positive results from difficult situations

What did I need to see from the delegate in the future?  Evidence that the delegate understood the situation and the possible implication of asking me to give him leave to finish the course early.

Getting positive results from difficult situations

 

How did I do it? The problem solving model I used in this situation, was called the BIFF model, a method of giving assertive feedback to someone, and can be used in a range of situations.

So what did I do?

I said to the delegate “I’m not sure that you were aware, but when you asked me if you could leave at 3:00pm today…” (BEHAVIOUR)

IMPACT  “that put me in a difficult position. I have to run the course according to set criteria, finish at 5:30pm, which I am not allowed to vary. I have to be fair to everyone, and keep things on track with time. I have no management power to grant you time off”.

“I am FEELING really under pressure, frustrated and powerless in this situation”.

“If you need to go at 3:00pm then that is your choice, you need to take that up with your line manager, as I cannot grant you that time off.  Please don’t indicate that I said it was OK because I cannot say that. I have to inform your employer of your attendance at both morning and afternoon sessions. I would rather you stayed or re-booked the course”. (FUTURE)

 BIFF modelboxing glove

 

 

 

 

 

 

The outcome

This approach was much more effective than me telling him what I really felt about his request. The outcome was a really positive one, the rest of the group knew who was in charge and that I was being fair.   The delegate knew where the responsibility lay for his decision.  He decided to ask his wife to manage the canine date, and stayed on the course and was very positive throughout the two days.  The open and honest dialog had helped build our relationship.

 

So how do you go about getting positive results from difficult situations…

1) Think about what the person is  asking

2) Think about the behaviours they are displaying

3) Think about what they are doing and how they are doing it

DON’T waste your life trying to work out why they are doing it, as you won’t ever be right!

 

I’d be interested to hear your own experiences of using the BIFF model when giving feedback.

 

The difference between attitude and behaviour

The difference between attitude and behaviour

Understanding the difference between attitude and behaviour is complex

Understanding the difference between attitude and behaviour can be confusing, especially if you have just met the person, and only have their behaviour to go on.  I had a really difficult situation some time ago at work. Delivering a course for a FTSE 100 company a delegate asked me if he could leave on day 1 at 3:00pm. The organisation are really hot on finish times, they don’t like courses finishing early, so I was in a difficult position. To try and gain some thinking time, always a good idea!, I asked him why he needed to leave at 3:00pm. He replied that he was a dog breeder, that his bitch was at a fertile time and he needed to be home by 5:30 because the owner of the dog was bringing the dog over to mate.

My attitude as a response to his behaviour

I am stood in front of 14 delegates at the start of the event whilst this conversation is happening, I have to remain professional, in control, so that the course doesn’t descend into anarchy. I couldn’t believe that this guy wanted to leave to watch his dog have sex, I thought that he was uncommitted to the course, that he had a poor attitude to his work, I thought he was pushing his luck. Being allergic to cats and dogs I couldn’t find any justification for his request, his values are significantly different from mine, his values are totally alien to me.

Everyone else was watching this discussion with wry interest. If I let him go they would all have reasons to go at 3:00pm. I was angry, frustrated, embarrassed and this can lead me to becoming sarcastic, a place where no-one ever wins. Should I tell him that he needs to get a focus on his job, that his side-lines are not part of his work, that this attitude stinks? I really wanted to but…….his reaction to this is likely to be aggressive, if I challenge his attitude I am challenging his personality and that is a difficult thing for us to deal with.

Conversely, I have a 6 year old daughter who is in year 1 at school. If he had said “I have a parents evening to attend at 5:30 and need to leave at 3:00 pm” my internal reaction would be totally different.

Where do attitudes come from?

The difference between attitude and behaviour

There are three broad places that determine our Values.

1) Background.

The 0-7 year experiences and influences. Your folks, school, friends, culture, environment, religious beliefs, experiences, family, the media, when you went through the 0-7 (the era, 1970s were different to the 1990s) and many more. These have all happened to you, they can’t be undone or influenced. You might go back and make sense of stuff as an adult, but you can’t change what’s happened here. It is highly likely that this period in time will set the tone of your Values. For example; whichever brand of religion was present at that time of your life, it is highly likely that if you still have belief it will be that belief. If you were brought up as a Roman Catholic you are still likely to be one.

2) Significant Life Events

We all have some destination, some goal, and follow a pathway towards it. These things are the occurrences that make us re-evaluate that destination. They include: Hatchings, matchings and dispatchings (births, Marriages and deaths) Divorces, Exam successes and failures, promotions, redundancies, lotto wins, accidents, illness’, overcoming illness. These things are partly in our control, we have some influence. (not the death bit hopefully!)

3) Lifestyle

This is about our daily choices, and we are in control of these.

They include; who you chose to live with, where you live, where you work, how many hours you work, how much sleep you get, the diet you have, your use of drugs (or not), the friends you keep, the amount of exercise you get….

All three of these areas mix together and from them appear our Values, which inform our beliefs and feelings and ultimately our attitudes.

How easy is it to see someone’s attitude?

Just being human means we strive to understand what is motivating others, why they do things. The delegate on the course has significantly different values to me. The challenge is what to do about it. If I make assumptions about his values I will also start to try and fathom out why he has these values, where they come from, what is motivating him. This is human behaviour, but utterly pointless. How can I possibly work out this stuff? I am just guessing and am going to be wrong every time…..His values are different to mine; it makes him wrong, it makes me right, I get indignant, I become sarcastic or aggressive, we end up with conflict.

The only way to deal with the situation is to use your brain. Dislocate your emotions from the situation focus only on the BEHAVIOUR disregard, ignore your feelings about “why” he is doing it, just look at what he is doing (his behaviour).

In this scenario he is

  • Asking for 2 and half hours off work
  • Doing it politely
  • Asking permission from someone that does not have the power to give it
  • Making the request in a public forum

The difference between attitude and behaviour

Knowing these facts enables me to take a course of action that is appropriate and fair, removing MY emotional baggage, getting the best for him, me and the other delegates.

So, don’t waste time and effort trying to second guess why someone believes something, why that person is doing what they are doing. Just look at what they are doing!

The next article will focus on how to do it, what happened to the dog breeder and a model that you can quickly learn to use.