When we get defensive we make it harder for our conversational counterparts to hear what we’re saying, and we usually trigger the other person’s defensiveness, too. After someone has said something that causes you to want to become defensive, these three steps can lead you toward cooperation — and away from explosion:
• Take a deep breath. Think of the first thing you want to say or do and don’t do that. Your first instinct may be to defend yourself against what you perceive as an attack, slight, or offense.
• Take another breath. The second thing you want to say or do may be to retaliate, but that will only escalate matters. Don’t do that, either.
• Focus on a solution. Think of the third thing you want to say or do and then do that. Once you get past defending yourself and retaliating, you have a better chance of collaborating on a solution.
Adapted from “Don’t Get Defensive: Communication Tips for the Vigilant” by Mark Goulston.
Success is often built on a reflexive habit of saying “yes” to opportunities that come your way. Eventually, as you succeed, you must prioritize the many opportunities that present themselves, or else you’ll be overwhelmed, overcommitted, and ineffective.
These steps can help you say “no” more comfortably:
• Slow down. Feelings of anxiety generated by the possibility of saying “no” can escalate into an emotional state in which we have diminished capacity to process information and consider options. Slowing down the pace of an interaction or a decision-making process can allow us to catch up and make the choice that’s right for us, not merely the choice that alleviates our anxiety in the moment.
• Practice. Saying “no” is like any other interpersonal skill — it feels clumsy and awkward at first, and we improve only with repeated effort.
Adapted from “Learning to Say “No” Is Part of Success” by Ed Batista.
Getting team composition right is critical, especially for virtual teams, which are more autonomous than co-located teams.
When putting together a virtual team, consider:
• Size: The best virtual team is a small one—under 10 people. Four or five is ideal. Relatively minor coordination and communication challenges grow exponentially as a virtual team grows, and few things erode trust faster than being left out of important communication. Rather than creating a big team, consider keeping the core team small, with advisory groups providing input as needed.
• Accountability: When virtual teams come together from a range of functions, leaders may lack formal authority over all team members. If team members are evaluated on their performance within the line of business they represent, rather than on their contributions or successful collaboration, members may feel a disincentive to collaborate. Instead, establish clear lines of accountability and uniform performance measures at the outset.
Adapted from “To Make Virtual Teams Succeed, Pick the Right Players” by Keith Ferrazzi.