Communicate under Attack

How do you handle personal attacks?

It could be anything from a boss ignoring your ideas, to a peer who respects you in public – only to destroy  you behind your back. Has it happened to you?

It’s easier to teach brain-compatible tone skills to others, than to model them in tough situations we all face daily. When research and  brain compatible communication skills come together, though, the day moves out of the trenches with amazing agility.

If  you’ve suffered unfair financial loss in the past 2 years, you’ll agree there’s plenty to gripe about if political discussions emerge.

Communicate Under Attack

Nevertheless, disagreement becomes an art that draws together differences when you help people to face tough or controversial issues. Whenever you apply tone to disagree you can brace your brain from subtle barbs a few folks toss into the ring when you least expect attacks. Some call it a lack of  civility.

Whatever you name it, most would agree, that tone takes different shapes in different settings. Fewer people however, spot how  basic tone skills can spark brainpower as armor when they’re  under attack. It’s also fuel to lead hot topics well before attacks stoke angry responses back.

With social media growth,  online tone is more critical than ever, and yet you often see people throw barbs at others – however subtle -  in the name of critical thinking. Yikes – it’s more like kill-the-diversity thinking!  Survey your tone skills to see where your communication strength and weaknesses lie.

Tone skills impact innovation

In successful exchanges, learning comes from disagreements that showcase opposite angles of an issue. The result? Innovative solutions that create wins for the wider community. Here are a few tips for disagreeing in ways that build goodwill. It’s a daily choice though to use tone for tonic or toxins in tough times.

Have you seen a person who lacks tone skills jump into the fray demanding that one side only exists? Believe it or not – that one person, because of harmful chemicals such as cortisol, can trigger toxic reactions that store these in the amygdala. It’s why toxic workplaces destroy any hope of innovative solutions for an entire group. The opposite is also true.

An organization that disagrees well, is often one that prospers and you can trace tone strengths to the root of many organizational advances. Einstein reminded us how this occurrence remains rare, because, “Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.”

It doesn’t need to be that way.

5 Basic tools to tackle tone problems

If you tend to spark toxic  disagreements or run from conflicts – start with these basics:

1. Affirm another person’s thoughts before sharing your views on the other side – to show that you really heard, sorted, and valued them. (notice I did not say agree with them)

2. Thank people for different ideas presented and show how you’ve tried or considered them further. Toss your own ideas into the ring to show and explain differences you see.

3. Share personal experiences respectfully as another angle to think about together – rather than as a need to replace the original ideas that were presented. Remember you are looking to stir and learn from diverse sides of the issue.

4. Ask two footed questions, rather than offer your own opinion too quickly.  For instance, you might ask: Have you thought about…?;  What if…?;  Could another possibility be …?.

5. Toss unique ideas into the mix – to inspire with confidence – more as part of a good discussion opportunity – than a need to top the original points. Make sure you support your best ideas with concrete examples to help people see possibilities presented.

In any talented circle, differences  can segue each participant into a broader vision for an innovative workplace.  Good tone draws in and welcomes multiple talents for solutions across differences in tough times.

Why allow poor tone to  shut down voices when a few communication tactics will jump-start brainpower we so desperately need to rebuild  broken systems we all face daily?

Once tone takes a group discussion down – let it go

Check out this hilarious video to show how men and women let go of stuff differently  A close friend and colleague of mine cleverly uses the term, “Let it go!” to address life’s tougher and more hard-hitting conflict issues.

When one discusses with the brain in mind, it usually works well over time to drop things and move on. That’s because to replay it, makes it worse and stores negative results for future negative replays. We’ve all made mistakes – and each time we open keen opportunities to use strategies that allow for genuine growth from those mistakes.

For example:

• When people diminish your life’s beliefs – do you let it go?
• When people take you for granted or criticize – do you let it go?
• When younger peers get celebrated for less than you do – do you let it go?

The brain holds on and can even create a meltdown for several reasons. Stored mental barriers within the brain’s amygdala make it harder for some people to let go. You’ve likely noticed others  rewire their brains’ plasticity to adjust and move on quickly – in refreshing ways, and with far greater ease. Like any newly acquired skill, it’s difficult at first and grows with use.

Tone skills at the MITA Brain Center

Politics and religion discussions highlight good or poor tone skills faster than less controversial topics. Yet, observe the difference, when every push forward holds people as the highest capital.  Or watch the wonder of communication tactics that serve as tools to build goodwill across differences. In both cases, mind-bending ideas emerge in ways that surprise a group with innovative adventures forward together.

It’s why brain based tone skills are central to  MITA’s Manifesto, and it’s how innovative leaders work with rather than against human brainpower. Can you see how ideas reach deeper and wider in a safe, integrity filled and challenging community? What do you think?

7 Comments

  1. Conor Neill says:

    Nice post. This is an important area of mature self-awareness that is incredibly difficult – in part because the emotional response to “tone problems” overrides my own mind’s ability to see reality clearly – for about 20 minutes the combination of cortisol, steroids and adrenaline mean that I cannot think straight. The neuroscientist and surgeon Dr Mario Alonso Puig has done some excellent work looking at how negativity affects our brain function (http://www.conorneill.com/2009/10/three-things-to-control-when-negativity.html )

  2. eweber says:

    Many thanks for stopping by Conor, and thanks for the insights about tone. I know Puig’s work and write frequently on the topic of cortisol’s role in tone problems, as it is key part of the MITA Brain Based Model and Manifesto for Leading and Learning with the brain in mind.

    Recently I was invited to create a leadership course for business schools that carries the concept of building an innovative culture for leading in a new era. In helping business leaders to create strategies for more innovative cultures, one looks at tone with the brain in mind, for exciting results. Leaders are often surprised at their own tone capabilities to turn negative barbs around at work, after they develop tone tools with the brain in mind.

    It’s partly an awareness of poor tone when it strikes as it is also an awareness of toxins that get spilled by poor tone. It destroys ideas and impacts an entire workplace with harmful results – since it shuts down innovation. It’s often subtle and disguised.

    For instance, a group can be discussing hot topics, and can be using terrific tone skills to get to the bottom of issues. They respect others and use tools for offering suggestions that differ without defiling people in the circle. Then along comes a newcomer – who hears nobody else and begins to speak from a position of anger and frustration. Soon the toxins take effect and many in the circle slip into poor tone skills and disrespect arises for many in the group. Have you seen it happen? It’s amazing how quick and how lethal poor tone is. Nobody wins and the most intelligent voices often grow silent when it appears.

    Would you agree that tone skills should be a core part of all leadership classes:-), and should be ranked up there with ethical values. What do you think?

  3. Great post. Stylistically, business leaders consistently grapple with proper tone. The trick box is knowing when to respond aggressively to get the aggressor back into a framework where intelligent tone can make a difference. There are times when passive response perpetuates aggression. My tact is usually to let time lapse to make tonal strategies more effective.

  4. eweber says:

    Thanks for your kind words, Kim. Yes, I agree that tone can be a problem and it’s not always easy to find the most effective tone at the time of an attack.

    Time is an amazing asset – since it allows the heated amygdala to cool down and gather it’s response with more wisdom. You said it better than me! Thanks for the reminder to wait, Kim. It usually works miracles! :-)

  5. The ironic condition is when in business you are being attacked and you refuse to engage in kind of tone-and it infuriates the aggressor more. I use this tactic often – it comes from Aikido-using anthers energy against themselves. I will be firm but incredibly calm. They see it as not taking them seriously -which is the point-you are not.

  6. eweber says:

    Kim – you also show the amazing intellectual power of tone skills here. For folks who operate more from the “heated amygdala” syndrome, it would be another heated note if their selected victim uses professional tone in response.

    Some people choose to use meta-messages and say all is OK, when they do not mean it. That too can be harmful as it creates stress – which can literally shrink the brain and shut down intelligence. Debra Tannen wrote a wonderful book on her research with meta messages and these can lead to huge problems.

    All to say, it’s cool that you stay firm — which is an amazing outcome of operating out of good tone skills:-)

  7. Ellen,
    A fantastic post with both theory, science, and practical tips on turning negative into positive. Love it.

    My favorite is #4 “ask two footed questions” using what if etc… Here’s a companion post that expands on that point.
    —-
    http://katenasser.com/two-magical-words-for-best-21st-century-people-skills/

    Many thanks for your continued insights on how the brain impacts interactions and results.
    Kate

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