Smoothing Ruffled Feathers
© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD
In the world of birds, ruffled feathers is one sign of a
the case at work? Ruffled feathers can spread like a virus throughout
office, department or corporation. Depending on the influence of the
one', that spread can be fatal.
Infected birds shed the virus by exhaling and excreting. Isn't
in the workplace? Gossip and anger can quickly change the workplace
from healthy to malicious. And, it's very contagious.
When words are involved, a high level of refinement of the
Stories change subtly. Emphasis is given to different aspects by
people. Additions are appended. Motives are questioned. Assumptions are
Often, the initial act becomes entirely unrecognizable in a very short
What to do? Be H.I.P.!
Here are three tips for smoothing ruffled feathers as soon as
you are the 'ruffler', implement these immediately. If you are the
these work for you as well.
OK, you may be thinking, 'It was honesty that got me into this
first place!" True, you may have blurted out some unvarnished truth in
of frustration. That's often the fastest way to ruffle a few feathers.
Now that you have calmed down some, it is time for a different
First, be honest with yourself. What was your intention when you opened
mouth? Did you intend to inflict pain? Did you intend to create tension
dissention? Did you really just want to smack the other person and you
with your words? Or, were you just a little clumsy in trying to rectify
Now, if you are completely honest, it is likely that you so
frustration that you were lacking a little finesse. Right? If that is
you can now go to the person you ruffled and truthfully say that hurt
your intent. Be honest about your outburst and identify it as a less
effective way of releasing your pain. Ask if you can discuss the issue
out a solution that is acceptable to you both.
Oh, so, you really did want them to feel small, dumb and
own...likely looking for a new position. Of course, if you're the boss
did this, you're also on your own...looking for new employees!
Let no grass grow under your feet. As soon as you have calmed
better of your words, go to the other person and acknowledge what's
Take responsibility for your part in the interaction. Don't let this
Different people react differently to pain and stress. Some
and make themselves very uncomfortable, even unwell. Others will spread
around. This is the virus.
As soon as you can--as soon as your blood pressure is back to
improves and the blood has returned to your centers of reason and
responsibility for what you have done or said. CAUTION: At this point,
tendency to degenerate into sentences involving the word 'You'. This is
time for that. Speak only about yourself and your feelings. This takes
Why be immediate? Because pain swells things. You've noticed
put ice on the situation right away. It's that simple.
When folks are upset, there is a tendency to talk about what
won't put up with and cannot stand any longer. Sure, that releases your
frustration, however, it does not move the situation forward.
Talk about what you do want, what will help and what can
smooth the way
better working relationship. Be positive. Assuring folks that you want
work is far better than screaming about what isn't working!
You don't have to put on a 'Pollyanna' approach to be
positive. It is a
flip of the mind-set. Switch from the past to the future. "Let's do it
is much easier to hear than "I hate it when you _____!", isn't it?
thumb: Before you open your mouth, run the words you are about to say
your mind. Would you be able to hear it well? Would it help move the
resolution? If the answer is "no", you've got time to change your
words. If the
answer is 'yes', then proceed with assurance that you are working to
Any young duck can cruise through the pond knocking folks
feathers takes maturity, intelligence and willingness. Don't be a dumb
Learn to calm the waters and only create ripples that get you where you
© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD All rights reserved worldwide.
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler solves 'people problems' at work to reduce
trust & streamline negotiation. Effective communication skills
teams, maximized productivity and increased profits. Her newest book
executives & entrepreneurs, 'Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict
in the Wilds
of Work' comes out Summer '04. Visit her website at www.OptimizeInstitute.com