The irony about our work in digital advertising and marketing is that our automated business is built on the back of a million human dependencies. Whether you’re involved in ad tech, content marketing or something in between, you rely on a set of intricate, demanding relationships. And even when all is going well, things can get tense and relationships can fray. I’ve seen this kind of breakdown destroy teams and sour talented people on the business. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Just over a year ago I saw a simple but life-changing talk by the very talented Marcus Weston, coach, speaker, mentor to business leaders and rabbi in the Kabbalah sect of Judaism. The core message was very straightforward: Most interpersonal conflict occurs because of how we react immediately in the moment. We read an email or hear a comment…we feel slighted or hurt…and we immediately lash back. A destructive cycle thus begins and rapidly escalates.
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But as Marcus tells us, we are only very rarely responding to what others do or say. We instead are responding to the story our ego is telling us about what’s been done or said. Someone seems distracted and not paying attention to you in a meeting: your ego says They don’t respect you! How arrogant! But your ego may be an unreliable narrator. What if that person was dealing with a very ill child or parent? Someone else chimes in on an email string and seems to dismiss the concern you’ve raised. Out to get you? Undermining your value? Or is she attempting to calm everything down but her note loses context as an email?
With credit and apologies to Marcus, I’ve paraphrased the coping strategy he gave us to make it accessible those who may be struggling to maintain relationships in our overheated atmosphere. Yes, it’s the same cadence you follow when you find yourself suddenly on fire. This is intentional.
STOP! Simply don’t respond. Hit the pause button. Give your super-ego time to step in and assess the situation.
DROP! Drop the current story line. Just refuse to accept it. No, that’s not what’s actually happening. I won’t accept that explanation.
ROLL! Roll out an alternative explanation and an alternative response. Hey Stacy, it seems like we may have crossed wires back there. I know we’re all moving pretty fast and juggling a lot. Tell me a little more about your take on things so I fully understand.
It’s a simple recipe for using generosity to defuse potential conflict. It’s a mindful, intentional response to situations where we otherwise lose our heads. And it just might be the key to living and succeeding in our highly inter-dependent world.