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How to Give Meaningful Feedback to Defensive People


They yell. They scream. They cry. Then they blame you.

I’ve been there far too often myself. Some people are constantly on the defensive. In order to give feedback to these individuals that is meaningful in nature, we must take their emotions into account.

Are they feeling fear or anxiety? Anger? Or maybe they are trying to cover up a mistake that they don’t want you to know about?

Negative emotions don’t have to create a negative outcome. With the right approach, it is possible for everyone involved to walk away feeling like they took something positive from the encounter. Here’s how you do it.

#1. Isolate the conversation. Defensive people tend to become more defensive if the conversation is happening in a public area. By isolating the conversation so that the feedback can be given in private, you eliminate the audience that can help to feed the negative emotions so they keep growing.

#2. Focus on the purpose of the conversation. People who are in a defensive mode are looking to counterstrike. You might have some solid feedback to give them, but they’re going to attack you at the first moment they can. The purpose here is to make sure you’re both working toward a solid outcome. Always focus on the end goal first – then focus on the steps that are required to get there.

#3. Keep yourself focused. I love stories. That makes it difficult for me to stay focused sometimes when a defensive individual is off on a tangent. I realize they’ve changed the subject, but I’m fascinated as to the outcome of that story. For the feedback to be meaningful, I’ve had to adjust my perspective. I must focus on myself. And, if you’re like me, you’ll feel more prepared when you stay centered.

#4. Do your homework. There are always people who will surprise us with a negative reaction. For the most part, however, you know exactly who on your team or in your life is going to respond defensively to the feedback you’re about to offer. So do your homework before the encounter, get some research done, and provide concrete examples of how other people in a similar situation have found success. Truth will always be an absolute defense in this type of situation.

#5. Engage the emotion. If you let negative emotions hover over your conversation, then that negativity will fester and grow. Don’t allow that to happen. A few calm words of acknowledgement can be enough to diffuse the negativity.

#6. Understand the reason behind the tears. I’m adding this one on a personal note. When I get really angry – like really, really, REALLY angry – I tend to cry. It’s because I’m trying not to explode my emotions onto the other person. I clench my jaw, I picture chucking a coffee pot at that person’s head, and I say nothing while a few hot tears stream down my face.

That’s a very different emotion compared to someone who cries because they feel like they can’t get anything right.

If you approach crying in the wrong way, you’re only going to make the situation worse. So double-check the emotions before you decide on the right way to offer the needed feedback.

It’s also a good idea to deliver difficult news at the end of the day. A negative situation in the morning can fester into a full-blown disaster by lunch. By giving people the chance to cope in their own comfortable spaces, you’re giving them a chance to eliminate their defensiveness over time.

How do you handle giving defensive people the feedback they need? Have you implemented these methods? I’d appreciate hearing about your experiences, no matter what your results may have been. 

Methods to Keep Yourself Calm While Competing

The butterflies are almost always the worst.

I know they’re about to start fluttering when a shot of adrenaline surges through my body. My muscles feel kind of weak, even with the extra energy. I don’t get sweaty palms, but the back of my neck flushes hot.

It’s more than nervousness or a fear of failure. It is the need to be my very best.

Although how we feel during a competition is different for every person, there are similarities that each of us will experience. The stomach churning, fear-producing, unfocused mind can conjure up a lot of scenarios where failure becomes the only possible result. When you know these methods to help keep yourself calm while competing, it becomes easier to make the most out of these moments.

#1. Stick to a routine. Although being on complete autopilot isn’t beneficial, forcing yourself to think about every single task you need to finish before starting a competition is also not helpful. I’ve found that by embracing how I think and feel when I’m at my best, I can focus on the routine tasks with enough attention to complete them without losing my focus on the end goal.

#2. Let it go. When it is time to start competing, the focus tends to shift from the actual competition to the variable influences which might affect it. Racers might worry about the weather, their diet, or what it might mean to fail. To avoid this, I place visual cues that emphasize the importance of the competition so I can stay focused on the process I need to follow instead of what is going on around me.

#3. Picture what it means to succeed. When I was in high school, our basketball team once lost 40 straight games. One of my friends was on that team and he just didn’t care. “We never win. So I don’t bother to try.” That attitude went into the practices, the efforts during the game, and sometimes even how those on the team interacted with others. They were picturing themselves failing.

It’s not always easy to visualize success. I look at what I want to accomplish and then picture that moment. I want to know how I’ll feel so that I can strive toward that feeling with my daily actions. It doesn’t mean I’ll get there, but if one practices for success, they are much more likely to achieve it.

#4. Cope with the worries. Do you have people come up to you randomly while you run errands? It happens to me all the time. That kind of interaction triggers my stress alarms. I worry about who I might run into during the day and what they might say to me. During a competition, this anxiety gets heightened by 1000%. When you know your triggers and how your body reacts to them, then you can begin to cope with them.

I prefer deep breathing exercises and meditation. Anything that lets you examine the emotions, however, will be beneficial.

#5. Plan for the worst-case scenario. When you are competing, what is the worst thing that could happen to you? Picture it. Then plan what you’ll do if it happens. Chances are that it will not, but when you expect the unexpected, you’re able to keep pushing forward.

Staying calm isn’t always easy while competing, but it is possible. Apply these methods to your next efforts to see if they can help you cross the finish line.

How do you handle competition? What strategies help you to stay calm?

How You Can Stop a Personal Passive-Aggressive Cycle


It happens all of the time. There is that one person in a group who is upsetting everyone else. Maybe they show up late all the time. Or maybe they ignore emails. Or maybe they just expect everyone else to clean up after them. Most of the time, you won’t see people outwardly reacting to such a person.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t reacting at all. Many people internalize their anger and frustration when this happens so it is kept from being out in the open. As that anger festers, however, it needs to have a release at some point. This is how the passive-aggressive cycle begins.

The symptoms of being passive-aggressive can be as mild as a sarcastic response to extremely hurtful actions. Instead of creating such a negative cycle, you can stop passive-aggressiveness before it requires a release. Here’s how you do it.

#1. Evaluate the situation. What made you upset in the first place? For many, passive-aggressiveness begins when it feels like someone else is trying to take away your personal power. They’re invading your boundaries. So ask yourself this: will you be angry about what has happened next week? If not, then choose to let the anger go.

#2. Summarize the problem. Why is it that the actions which have triggered you are so bothersome? Sometimes the roots of our anger have grown quite deep. Childhood trauma, religious teachings, personal bias – they can all affect the levels and depth of our passive-aggressive responses. We must honestly summarize the feelings which triggered the cycle in order to stop it. It’s usually not the person, but an accumulation of internalized feelings that causes us to spiral out of control.

#3. Connect the feelings to your response. We always have the chance to make a choice. We choose to be passive-aggressive. We choose to let things go. We choose to let anger fester. When we can connect the feelings to our triggers that cause us to lash out, then it becomes easier to recognize and avoid situations and people who create such an internally toxic environment – often through no fault of their own. It’s not about them in most cases. It’s about you.

#4. Explore alternative outcomes. Instead of being sarcastic with someone, what is another way you could respond to them? Could you walk away? Could you give them an honest answer? Maybe you could tell them that you didn’t appreciate their actions? When we explore more acceptable ways to respond than what passive-aggressiveness can provide, then we are giving ourselves a chance to improve our future.

#5. Practice the best alternative. Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying an alternative response. Or practice walking away from a difficult situation with a trusted friend, co-worker, or loved one. Bring a journal with you if writing down your feelings and thoughts is your alternative to letting anger and frustration fester. If you can practice this skill once per day for just 7 days, you’ll be able to have it available as an option when the next frustrating event takes place.

Dealing with passive-aggressiveness is more than just learning a new coping skill or trying to return yourself back to “normal” functioning. Unless each of us can clarify the events which cause us to enter a passive-aggressive cycle in the first place, those negative spirals will never really stop.

Take a moment, be honest with yourself, and think about why you react when someone makes you angry and frustrated. Then implement these steps to stay in better control.

Have you used these steps to help you stay out of a negative passive-aggressive response? Did it help? Was it challenging? I’d love to hear your perspective about how helpful these steps happen to be.

When You Must Deal With a Liar, Here’s What You Do

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: we all lie. The average person will tell at least one or two lies every day. There are no exceptions to this rule, but there are some people who tend to lie more often. People who are in a position of negotiation will lie half of the time if they have a motive or opportunity to do so.

But it doesn’t take a negotiation to encourage a lie. It’s done so that the upper hand can be obtained. I know it feels great to hit someone with a zinger they don’t expect, even if it is a lie. Afterward, however, the lie doesn’t feel so good. Because of this feeling of regret, the assumption is made that everyone has that feeling.

They do not. So instead of trying to get better about finding out what is a lie, I’ve decided to work with liars on a different level. Here’s what I do.

#1. Encourage sharing. People want to feel like they’re equal to one another. That’s why when someone shares a secret, others also want to share their own secret as well. That sharing process helps to level the playing field. I encourage sharing by offering specific and unanticipated information to the other person or party. This creates a transparent response and reduces the likelihood of a devastating lie coming up later on.


#2. Ask good questions. I consider myself a pretty honest person. I’m not going to go out of my way to lie. I’m also not going to go out of my way to divulge information to someone who may not need it. A lie by omission is still a lie, no matter how we might try to justify it. In order to get the complete story, I’ve found that pessimistic questions tend to elicit a more honest response. Many people find it difficult to negate a true statement that is offered in the form of the question.


#3. Listen for an answer. Ever notice how a politician will receive a question about their thoughts on taxes and wind up discussing something about foreign policy instead? Dodging a question is a skill that some have become experts at doing during a conversation. This is a tough lie to detect because many listeners don’t notice a dodged question. Instead of being impressed by an eloquent sidestep, listen for an actual answer to your question. If you don’t get one, then do what I do – ask the question again.


#4. Stay away from privacy concerns. It’s important to have privacy, but I’ve found that discussing confidentiality issues can actually cause people to lie more. This is because people become suspicious if all you’re doing is talking about privacy concerns. If you offer a large amount of protection, people are more likely to lie. If you offer no confidentiality, people are also more likely to lie. So if you need to mention privacy issues, do so briefly, but then just move on with your conversation.


#5. Inspect for leaks. The truth we need will often come out in other ways when dealing with a professional liar. We can detect information from the questions they ask, their body language, and even in a joke here or there. When a leak is detected, a savvy liar might have done that on purpose to throw you off. I’ve found that leaks tend to be genuine and honest because they are often mindless.


Dealing with a liar is never fun. This is why I’ve worked to remove as much lying as possible from my life. Yet sometimes there is a need to be involved with a liar in a conversation, a business deal, or in some other way. These are my methods – what are yours? I’d love to hear how you confront lying when you discover it.

How You Can Be an Extrovert in Your Next Meeting

I hate talking in meetings. Even “hate” may not be a strong enough word. Everyone watches you talk, judging every word you say, waiting to pounce on something with which they may disagree. You have to convince everyone of your expertise, become vulnerable, and sometimes you even have to speak above the loudest voices in the room. It’s enough to turn even the biggest extrovert into an introvert.

That’s actually my secret to being able to engage in meetings. You can become an extrovert by following many of the traits introverts have when it comes to a conversation. I listen first. I process all of the information that is coming my way. Then I speak only when I have a well-thought opinion that can influence the discussion in what I believe will be a positive way.

There are other ways that can help you engage confidently with others during a meeting when you don’t really want to say anything. Here are some of the methods that help me and hopefully they’ll be of help to you as well.

#1. Do your prep work before the meeting. It always comes down to your information. If you don’t know what’s going to be discussed at a meeting, then you’re going to have a steep learning curve in a chair that will probably be uncomfortable. Take an hour or two before the meeting, go through the information that will be discussed, and you’ll be able to think on your feet – or in your seat – more effectively.

#2. Be forthright. There will be questions that someone may ask that you cannot answer right away in a meeting. Instead of trying to fake it to make it, try offering a honest approach. I like to say something like this: “That’s a great question. I’ll need to think through that for a bit to give you a good answer.” You can ask people to come back to you. You can say you need time to research the subject. If you need extra time, I’ve found there’s nothing wrong in asking for it.

#3. Practice your public speaking. Whether you’re in a meeting with 5 people or 500 people, the butterflies in your stomach will float around when it’s time to make a presentation. This is why I make sure there is time to practice my presentation before I have to make it. My family are often my first draft volunteers, but I also try to make sure I have a dress rehearsal with some trusted co-workers. This way I can get feedback, know where my stumbling points are, and be able to reinforce my confidence. I also highly recommend Toastmasters.

#4. Learn to ignore your discomforts. Some people get so worked up that they get sweaty or red in the face when they have to speak in meetings. I’ve even met folks who break out in hives – as if they were allergic to speaking during a meeting. People go to meetings for ideas. They’ll ignore your discomfort if you can present a solid idea. As you get more comfortable, these physical symptoms will typically disappear as well. Take a few deep breaths, push forward, and you’ll find people are listening more than they are looking.

#5. Contribute by asking questions. Sometimes there really isn’t anything for me to say during a meeting, but I might be asked to contribute anyway. In those times, I like to ask questions about what I’ve heard. I always write down a question or two so I can start a discussion if called upon and this helps as it seem like I’m speaking when in reality I’m encouraging others to speak instead.

You can hate meetings, but still get a lot out of them with the right approach. Take the lessons learned from the introverts and use that to be an extrovert when needed at your next meeting, even if you don’t want to be there.

How do you handle dealing with difficult speaking situations at work? I’d love to hear about some of your strategies and coping mechanisms and how you use them.

You Really Can Say No At Work: Here’s How You Do It

Your boss comes over to your desk with another project that needs to get done. You’re already working on three other projects and your co-workers each only have one. “You’re the only person I trust to get this completed on time,” your boss might say. “Will you add this to your pile?”

Your boss expects you to say “Yes.” In reality, you really can say “No” and not have to worry about your job. Here’s how you can make that happen.

Make Your “No” Be Well-Reasoned

Instead of an emotional reaction to the request to do more work, think about it from a practical solution. Using the example from above, you’ve already got 3 projects on your desk. Discuss with your boss the fact that you already have a lot of work that already needs to be completed. Talk about which work needs to take a priority. You might be able to shift the other projects to take on this new one, so you end up saying both “Yes” and “No” at the same time.

By taking a well-reasoned approach, you can show your boss the scope and scale of the work you already have. There’s a good chance that they don’t realize how much is already on your plate. This new work was brought to you because you really are good at what you do. Therefore, when you communicate more about what you’ve got going on, your professional life often becomes a bit easier to manage.

Take the Emotions of Your Boss Into Account

When you tell your boss that you can’t take on a new project, the rejection is going to create negative emotions for them. If there is no empathy for this natural process, then there’s a good chance the response you get back to your “No” is, “Well… I’m your boss and I’m telling you to get this job done anyway.”

Take a moment to step into the shoes of your boss for a second. Understand the difficult position they are already in and now you’re just adding to it. By acknowledging what is happening, your boss still isn’t going to be very happy, but they can cope with the negative emotions you’re creating for them.

Offer Up a Favor or Two

Maybe you can’t take on the full project right now, but you could consult with others on it for awhile. Could you attend a planning meeting? Read the first draft once it’s completed and lend your advice? Listen to others as they brainstorm ideas for what needs to happen? If you can offer up a favor or two, then you’re still saying “No” to the massive demands of a project, but you still get to be involved in it.

With that being said, your “No” must be authentic. You might be busy with 3 projects on your plate, but what will the boss think if you’re constantly taking breaks to chat with co-workers, text on your phone, or check your Facebook status? The boss will think you’ve got extra time on your hands. If you say that you’re too busy to take on another project, make sure that the perception you give others matches up with the reality of your situation.

Saying “No” requires you to be kind, but it also requires you to be firm. Be sure of yourself. Try not to be defensive. Be honest about what you’ve got going on. Make it clear that you won’t change your

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