So we’ve got lit up. People in action. You’re doing your planning. You’ve got the rhythm right, and then they get upset. They have huge breakdowns, and they want to quit. How do you handle upset people? How do you handle people who are angry, who have big complaints? What do you do with that? Well, deeper listening is really the key, and I’ve got some I’ve always got plenty of stories about everything, but here’s a couple on this one.
So I’m talking with this guy at one of our clients company just the last couple of years, and he was a new guy in the company handling a new division. And he’d gotten in a fight with one of the other managers who’d been there for a lot longer. And he was so frustrated, he didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t think straight. He was upset. She was upset. Like, the whole thing was going badly. So I just listened to him generously for a while and really let him be heard, let him kind of sound it out a little bit.
And when he started to be able to have a little more room to think and look clearly, I asked him what was going on with her with Lisa at the company, and he started to talk about kind of the surface level. And then I probed a little bit more. I’m like, no, what do you think it was like for her to be on the other side of this? What do you think is going on with her? What does she care about? What is she worried about?
Right? And he was very focused initially on kind of the surface level. She’s pulling for this, and that’s not right. And I’m trying to do this, and she doesn’t understand and that kind of thing. But as he started to look at it and my curiosity elicited his curiosity, and he started to look deeper in it, he started to realize, oh, she was really concerned about. Rapid changes in disrupting this thing she’s built. So she was one of the founders of the company, and he was relatively new to the leadership team. And she’d really built something that she was proud of, and she was nervous about what he and his team might do to upset the work and the overall company that she’d been involved with.
And when he saw that he had a little compassion for where she was coming from, you could start to think about that, right? Consider this, that behind every complaint, every upset, is something virtuous, like a value or a commitment. And that’s the place where, if we can point to that, we actually can shift it. So when you’re in an adversarial interaction with someone or they’re in an adversarial interaction with somebody else, the thing to ask yourself is what’s it like for the other person on the other side?
And if you get curious to that, if you stop fighting for your position and what you want, and you can kind of bracket that, if you could set that aside for a minute and think about what is it that they really care about? And instead of just speaking about the upset or their complaint, you actually go to the underlying virtue or value that they really care about. A couple of authors wrote a book. Keegan and Lacey wrote a book.
Leahy wrote a book. How the way we talk can change the way we work. And in that book, they talk about this principle that behind these upsets, behind these complaints, is something virtuous, and these commitments are personal values that get violated and really upset people. And when you speak to that, you honor something that they honor, and then you’re actually connected in something deeper. And together, you can look at where you’re disrupted. Anyway, that’s exactly what happened with Jordan and Lisa.
And they sorted things out, and they got back to working well together again. So dealing with upset people, breakdowns, angry people, people with big, deep, unresolved complaints can really be shifted very rapidly if you’ll listen for and name the unspoken virtue or value the commitment that underlies the whole thing that they’re upset about and that actually can open up something really dramatic. It takes a little practice, but it’s well worth doing. Take that play with that. My name is Bill Gallagher, scaling coach and host of this scaling up business podcast. Our show comes to you every week, so don’t forget to, like, subscribe, turn on your notifications so you get them every time and pass it along to somebody else who could use some of what we talk about in the show.
Thanks again, everyone, for listening, for watching. We’ll talk to you again next time. Keep scaling up. You.