Telling Your Side of the Story in a Dispute, Conflict or Reputation Crisis
In a dispute, conflict, scandal or reputation crisis, individuals and organizations who have made mistakes or willful errors and feel sincere remorse, should want to tell their side of the story. To experience receptiveness to listening and successfully having it heard from other people requires understanding that isn’t commonly considered.
Problem solving difficulty when it comes to our reputation might not be rocket science yet it can prove complex without gaining knowledge of psychology, not only of ourselves but other people in high stress situations.
We often naturally focus on ourselves rather than realizing improvement and solutions lie in the perceptions and emotions people are feeling about us.
Those perceptions can be from experiences and our contribution to them and people’s beliefs about who we are and what our intent was or wasn’t.
When we want to tell our story and explain, in hopes of successfully navigating and working through a dispute, conflict, scandal or crisis, we have to learn that the process requires fertile ground. That means helping people whose figurative walls, or guard, are up to feel respected and cared for to the point where they begin to relax. If this isn’t achieved, then progress becomes a pipe dream.
Telling your story without doing the work that needs to be done before it is a communication disconnect. You’re also the bull in the china shop of people’s minds and emotions, not deescalating negative impressions.
There are impediments to people wanting to listen to your side of the story or “hearing” it, because when people are triggered or emotionally hijacked and confirmation bias sets in deep, people have great difficulty listening or considering anything else than what they already believe are irrefutable facts (even if the evidence is missing). They become emotionally resistant and deaf.
People don’t need court-level facts to “convict” you in their minds. They just need strong enough felt emotions and beliefs about what you’ve done or not done and a vague idea of who you are and what level of character you do or don’t possess.
This is why it’s critically important then to be assertive (not aggressive) in a dispute, conflict or crisis and exhibit poise, show you are sincerely compassionate, express sincere remorse that is felt as authentic and conduct active listening, with great patience, humility and curiosity.
People don’t want to hear your story until it aligns with full ownership of mistakes or errors, true compassion and a willingness to face the emotional fire and listen with attentiveness to learn and understand negative impact.
Do this and not with the intent to fire back or get defensiveness and eventually, often sooner than later, people will consider paying attention to you communicating your personal version of “My Story: the shortcomings, reasoning (good or bad intentions), remorse, why it was poor thinking and decision making, the negative impact people endured or are enduring and what I want to do and will do to make it right.”
Being patient to wait to do this might be stressful yet the upfront work described earlier in this article is a show of the expected noble character and humanity and early stages of conflict management, crisis communications and crisis management, that pave the way to receptiveness.
In our own stress it is difficult to realize what other people need and require emotionally and psychologically for them to care to listen to us and hear our story. If the first steps are ignored and skipped, the likelihood of improvement and progress from people listening to us are slim to none.
Keep this in mind: when you show a high degree of character, poise, ownership of mistakes and errors, compassion, humanity, skilled listening and patience within a dispute, conflict or reputation crisis you are going to be received much better by people, including critics than if you believe that above-mentioned collection is optional or you have done “enough.”
This might be natural to do by yourself yet most people and organizations are not sufficiently skilled in everything and benefit from assistance. It is reality that under the stress and fatigue of a dispute, conflict or crisis that we don’t think clearly and effectively, control negative impulses and respond as wisely as we should, could and need to be successful.
Have a plan for that now, before that difficult dispute or one that grows into a lengthy, high-risk conflict or worse, a scandal or crisis hits, which while unlikely is still more possible than you realize, whether you are an individual or organization.
Michael Toebe helps individuals and organizations accurately analyze and wisely, more successfully respond to conflict and crisis that threatens or harms reputation. He is the writer and publisher of Red Diamonds Essays and has written advisory for Chief Executive, Corporate Board Member, New York Law Journal, Corporate Compliance Insights and Physicians Practice and publishes as well on beBee.This article was first published at Red Diamonds Essays, on the Medium platform, on Sept. 16, 2020