"You have to disarm them," my mentor said. "They are fearful people. And if you meet them with any kind of resistance, they become more fearful. And more territorial. And more high-strung."
"So how can I win?" I asked. "Just back down," she said.
I was skeptical. I'm a "throw it all out on the table and sort through it" kind of person. That doesn't work with high-string people. The truth is scary to them, especially when presented with extreme honesty. Though I don't like doing this, I understood today that with high-strung people you have to take away the argument. Completely. I would prefer to just have a healthy debate, make a decision, and move on knowing we all said our piece, held hands, and jumped together. Won't work with high-string territorials. So I have to find a new way.
Today one of these people phoned me up after sending a particularly rude email telling it was my responsibility to do something. She kindly cc'd me while responding to the person asking her for a favor. I was mildly irritated but I wanted to follow my mentor's advice and take away the argument. So I replied that even though I wasn't quite sure it was my responsibility to do this particular task, I'd be glad to help. No problem.
Rather than just washing her hands of the event and moving on knowing I'd do the task, she felt the need to call me and say that if I didn't really think it was my responsibility, she'd take the task because if it was really her responsibility then she wanted to do this. (You can imagine my patience wearing thin with this kind of conversation.) So I let her talk herself round and round in circles and once she came up for air, I told her I'd be glad to help with the task or glad to turn it back over to her, whatever she preferred. In a huff, she hung up. 5 minutes later I got an email saying that she'd take care of it. My mentor's advice worked.
This was a good lesson to learn. While we all have a normal method of operation, it's important to remember that our method doesn't work with every kind of personality. We have to adjust our approach and craft our communications carefully and creatively depending upon the audience. If we are our own brand, then we must remember that our messaging needs tweaking depending upon what we want to accomplish with whom. It's not easy and it takes patience and practice. Once we get the hang of it, this method saves us a lot of frustration, time, and once in a while it might even clear some items off our to-do list.