We all find ourselves alone in a battle once in a while. Whether you’re on a team as part of a project, as the owner of the business trying to get something right with a vendor, a sales person, a retailer, a manufacturer, a partner – it’s not that fun, but not that uncommon, to find yourself alone at the table trying to persuade, convince, edit, modify, evolve or otherwise impact something that needs attention.
There are ways to do this that feel like a bulldozer. And ways to do this that feel like a gazelle. I aim for the latter, even though my emotions can feel like the former. Here’s how I try to approach a difference of vision when I feel alone in my convictions:
1. Take as much responsibility as possible for why things are the way they are. It may not feel natural, and it may not feel totally true deep down, but honestly look at how you got here. Usually there was a lapse in clear communication along the way. Condescension and “it’s me, not you” won’t work. You have to make this assessment genuinely. Others will sense it if not (and then, game-over.)
2. Don’t make anyone wrong for what they’ve done or haven’t done (unless you’re managing an employee, which is a different dynamic.) No one likes to feel wrong – not a friend, not a husband, not a partner, not a service provider – not one person ever in history. I’m hugely imperfect at this – but I try to see the rightness in what HAS happened, and take that tone to change what’s not working.
3. Most of us have a colleague or companion of sorts we can confide in. But here’s the key – try not to be temperamental, defensive or even bitchy in your complaining about the problem. The tone you take in unpacking and bemoaning and explaining it to your confidante will inform how you think about fixing it. Talk about it with the level of maturity you hope to use in solving it.
It takes a lot to fight battles among people who you like and respect. I don’t like to call it fighting really, but it’s defending or promoting an aspect that isn’t getting the attention it needs. But to be an effective champion for any change, you have to start with how YOU got the train to the station. And it can’t be a strategy – you have to see your part, and mean it when you say it. These ideas come from the head, but have to be led with the heart.
Here’s to being alone. It will happen. But if you’re lucky, you’ll have a quiet (but loyal) companion to help you through.