Shut Up & Validate

Ever get so deep into an argument that you completely lose sight of the original reason for the discussion? What about one where halfway through you realize that nobody is right?

That’s a trick question. We’ve all been there – it’s natural to be defensive of our actions and our feelings. In the workplace, however, this type of reaction can stifle progress.

It’s those moments when you feel the conversation escalating out of control that you need to take a step back and consider the original point of the argument. Chances are the root of the argument is very simple; maybe you didn’t do something because you were busy with something else or you got dragged away or distracted. If they asked you to do something and for one reason or another you weren’t able to accomplish the task, it’s perfectly natural to try and dig your heels in and explain your position without taking their side into account.

However, in doing so you run the risk of over-explaining yourself and defending points that have nothing to do with the original problem. So here’s a mental exercise for you – shut up and validate. Focus on the root of the problem. Then, take moment to step back and understand why the person is upset with you.

If you can do this, you’ll be in a better position to look at the problem objectively. Maybe there’s something that you should have done differently. Perhaps the other person is merely looking for validation that you did not deliver on something that you promised. Maybe the best way to start a discussion is to validate the other person and acknowledge what went wrong.

Elevate the conversation, don’t drag it down into the pits. We get it – your personal feelings are dear to you and you’d do well to defend them whenever necessary. However, don’t start getting tunnel vision and throwing punches for the sake of landing a blow. Know that the other person may well have a valid point, and move the conversation along based on the merits of the original issue, rather than your own personal misgivings towards the original assessment.

Forget boxing diplomacy. Go back to the drawing board, realize why someone is upset, work on validating their feelings and, as always, keep Brewing Your Skill.