03 August 2009

Here’s a visual: Child throws a temper tantrum. Tries to hit his mother. But the mother doesn’t hit back, lecture or punish. Instead, she ducks. Then she tries to go about her business as if the tantrum isn’t happening. She doesn’t “reward” the tantrum. She simply doesn’t take the tantrum personally because, after all, it’s not about her.

via Modern Love - Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear - NYTimes.com.

Great article.  Though specifically about a woman whose husband tells her he wants to leave her, the larger theme of her response is excellent:  engaging in and getting riled up by someone’s attack or tantrum only encourages it to continue.

I’ve found an effective way to ‘win’ in such a situation is to stay calm and respond with reason, empathy, and giving some time or distance for the person to calm down.  Then, the situation hasn’t escalated, you have negated their schema/paradigm of conflict, and may then end with more respect for each other and a better working relationship.

The often instinctual and emotional response of getting upset and ‘buying or engaging in the other person’s charge’ rarely works.  As the author writes, “It’s not about [you]”, so don’t get yourself upset, as well.

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