In a situation that entails ‘poking the bear’, it’s best to deal with a gummy bear. Or a teddy bear – they don’t bite. Poking the bear is doing something you know will irritate someone else – or worse. It usually involves a difficult conversation the other person prefers to avoid…and it’s generally not pretty. It’s definitely stressful for both parties when that conversation elicits anger.
When you elect to speak truth to power rather than staying silent (or worse, being a ‘yes man’), poking the bear is a regular occurrence – despite the difficulty of it. That’s what makes those who tell the truth so valuable. Most people prefer the easier route of staying quiet. But sycophants add no value. The greatest business people – the greatest people - seek out contrary opinions to ensure they are doing the right things. Better to hear conflicting points of view before you start a course of action that will jeopardize your people. It’s easier to make a decision that takes different perspectives into account than it is to make a bad decision.
Some Day, You Could Be the Bear…
When you need to have a hard talk that someone else wants to avoid, take note of their reaction. Do they grow angry, defensive, maybe even hostile? Do they make you uncomfortable – or worse? And how does their response make you feel? Remember this – you could be the bear for someone else someday. It’s important to be prepared for when you become the bear someone else must poke. Ideally, of course, you’ll consider it in advance of that moment. Planning a response isn’t always do-able. But planning a mindset – yeah, you can do that.
Do you want to be diminished by the introduction of a topic you’d prefer not to discuss? To react with anger and negativity? Or do you want to have that talk that makes you uncomfortable? Do you want to be the type of person who thanks someone who takes you on, despite the risk of negativity? It is precisely BECAUSE they will take this risk that you must convey your gratitude.
If You Become the Bear… Plan Your Approach to Include These 3 Things
1. Listen. It’s that simple. Listening opens the door to countless outcomes. Refusing to listen ensures one outcome – and it’s going to be bad.
2. Consider. Note I did not say ‘think’. Consider alternatives, ponder different scenarios, and be open to possibilities.
3. Appreciate. Thank the person who braved your wrath. That person cares. Period.
Channel Your Inner Panda Bear
It’s hard to start a conversation that needs to happen – it’s just as hard to participate in it when someone else initiates it. Whether you work in corporate America, you own your own business, or you have a personal conversation that needs to happen…HAVE the talk. Be gentle, be approachable, and be black-and-white clear. It’ll make you more like a lovable panda bear than you imagine.
BONUS: Koala Bears are Slow to Anger
Actually, koalas are pretty much slow in general. When you slow your roll to anger, you derive more than one benefit:
1. You get the advantage of hearing the other person out fully.
2. You demonstrate patience…and you may inspire it in others.
3. You reinforce your approachability – especially when the going gets tough.
The bottom line is this – the more you listen, the more you will hear. Now go make this a great day.