All of us have had unexpected conversations at one time or another. Your company surprises you by reorganizing. The CEO wants to see you immediately. A key customer suddenly decides to move their business elsewhere. The commonality in all these situations is that they provoke emotion—fear, anger, surprise, happiness. How you handle yourself at critical moments makes a big impression on others.
What should you do?
The best outcomes come from clarity. So your first move is to figure out exactly what is happening. This is much harder than you’d expect, especially when you’re wound up. Keep quiet and really listen to what the other person is saying—and not saying—and ask questions if you need to. Then repeat what you heard back to the other person to let them know you’re fully present and to confirm your understanding of the situation.
Don’t react. Before you say anything, think about how you want to be perceived. If you’re angry or flustered it may be best to reconvene later when you have yourself under control.
When you do speak, make sure you speak from the other person’s point of view. Focus on what’s important to them and use “we” rather than “I” in the conversation. Language is important, especially in tense situations. Reinforcing your connection with the other person will help dial down the emotion you may both be feeling.
If possible, don’t make any decisions during this type of meeting. You need time to process what you’ve heard and figure out your best path forward. Once the conversation is concluded, go to your office, shut the door, and write down everything you can remember about the conversation BEFORE you talk to anyone else. It will help when you craft your next steps.
Unexpected conversations provide a fantastic opportunity to create/change impressions of you and your value. Make sure you get the benefit of the experience.