By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. I am so tired of the personal drama in my workplace. It seems like a lot of my coworkers constantly search out any reason to go on and on about what is unfair, or how people are mean, or they never get what they deserve. Honestly, I'm fine with problem-solving but sick of hysteria. Is there a way to get coworkers to focus on solutions?
A. Yes, validate the emotions causing the drama and ask your coworker what outcome they want. They will soon see that obsessing about their emotional reactions will not result in getting a result they would like.
Remember these four emotional categories: sad, mad, glad and scared. When coworkers are melting down, listen for which emotion or combination of emotion is getting stirred up. Then let them know that you can see they are (insert emotions) and that you understand why they would feel that way.
When people are really upset, they often don't have a clue about what they are feeling. When you acknowledge their emotions, you will have a calming effect. Then you can get them thinking about what they actually want.
Ask them to tell you what outcome they would like to see. If they go back to saying dramatic things and complaining, just keep asking what change they want.
Eventually, they will stop obsessing about how they live in an unfair universe and they will consider your question. You've now succeeded in pulling them out of drowning in their emotion and helped them consider some rational goals.
Don't let your frustration lead you to blurting out they need to buck up and grow up. When people are emotional, they actually are a lot like little kids. The last thing a kid wants to hear is someone telling them they need to shape up.
You'll get much further by helping them see that their emotions are running the show and making it clear you consider any emotional reaction they have reasonable. Keep in mind any emotional reaction anyone has is "reasonable" in some light. Getting into a rational debate about irrational reactions will never lead to good things.
Once you get coworkers to give you one rational goal, you'll be back on productive ground. When your coworkers state a goal, you and they can then solve the problem. When they are running around with their hair on fire, there isn't much you or they will accomplish.
As frustrating as it can be when coworkers turn into drama queens, our capacity to swim in the irrational seas of emotion can fuel problem solving. If we can't acknowledge the emotions, our tank will run dry and problems will seem insurmountable.
The last word(s)
Q. I work with a person who is a complete fool. I end up arguing with him a lot. Is there a way to win arguments with truly stupid people?
A. No, common wisdom recommends you never argue with idiots because they will drag you down to their level and win through experience.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
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This was printed in the June 30, 2013 - July 13, 2013 Edition