The Style Under Stress Test asks participants to pick a specific person or situation where they have a hard time staying in dialogue, and then directs them to answer all the questions in regards to that specific person or situation. The results of the test are not a measure of personality i.e., scoring high on “violence” does not mean you are a “violent person,” but rather it measures our tendencies and skills in a specific situation. Put yourself in a different situation and you’ll behave differently.
Sometimes we use personality type to justify our extreme Style Under Stress (silence or violence). We might say things like, “Of course I treated him that way. I’m an INTJ. That’s just who I am.” Or, “Yes, I said that. But it’s because I’m a ‘yellow’.” I sometimes use these as examples of helpless stories in the introduction of Master My Stories. Specifically, I bring it up on the slide that says “When it matters most, we often do our worst—and we feel like we are doing the right thing.” We behave badly when the stakes are high, then we justify the behavior with our personality type, without realizing we have other options that will help us return to healthy dialogue. This is a quick example that participants might not have thought of, and pointing it out usually gets a good laugh.
What should I do if I have an entire group/team attending the training that is very bitter and angry with management and resistant to change?
This is a great question. Let me share a few tips that may be helpful to think about.
1. If you have the opportunity to work with this group in their intact work team, I recommend engaging them in the activity on page 165 of the toolkit (page 139 of the trainer guide)—the optional Team Application for Master My Stories in Module 7. It’s probably one that they didn’t do in the Crucial Conversations class—so it will be new to them. The key for you is to make it safe for them to fully engage and use their skills to speak honestly, openly, and with respect.
2. Get them to acknowledge the costs of the status quo. What’s the cost of doing nothing? What’s the cost if they aren’t open and honest with one another?
3. Have them share success stories. While it can be daunting to take on a huge entrenched problem (like an angry, bitter culture that’s resistant to change), it can be helpful, motivating, and even inspiring to hear how others’ small steps have yielded results. Seek out opinion leaders and encourage them to share where they’ve been successful.
4. Finally, remind them that even if they try and just do a “pretty good” job of using the skills (vs. a perfect job), they can still get better results. Sometimes simply changing a few words, or the intent of an approach can dramatically alter how the other person reacts.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Candace Bertotti is a Master Trainer.
This article was originally published March 3, 2009.
Is it ever appropriate to move to silence?
The first question to ask yourself is, “Is this conversation crucial?” If the stakes aren’t high (someone was rude, but you’ll never see them again), emotions aren’t strong (sure you disagree, but you’re not upset or that passionate about it), or there are no opposing opinions (it may be a touchy issue, but you’re all in agreement), then silence may be an appropriate course of action. That said, know that your silence communicates something, and by not speaking up, you inherently give other people the power to determine your meaning rather than stating it clearly yourself.
If the conversation is crucial, then what?
If you find that your motive for speaking up is not healthy, your negative emotions are controlling you, you lack respect for someone, and/or you don’t feel safe, it may be appropriate to move to silence—but only temporarily while you take a quick step back. Be careful not to use this “pause” as an excuse to sweep the problem under the rug or venture down a road of paralyzing analysis and unending preparation. Taking an hour or two to collect your thoughts, connecting to a healthy motive, finding a way to respect the other person’s dignity, and/or finding a private space to talk can make a big difference. Your opinion that someone else is an idiot is better left unsaid. Starting a dialogue about working better together with that same person in a private, safe space is essential.