Jumping to Offense

Cliff Sign

(Image Courtesy of http://www.aroundtheworldl.com)

The other day during a conversation with someone close, I noticed something about our interaction. It was a simple conversation, nothing too deep or seemingly important, but a pattern revealed itself.

The pattern was simple: I jump to offense.

Let me explain. This means that my mind appears to be on a quest to find a way to be offended at what someone else is saying. By quest, I mean that my mind considers this its highest priority and will devote both time, energy, and resources to ensure the quest’s success.

Here are a few examples:

“It is getting kind of late for sending out Christmas Cards”

My Jump: So are you saying that I should have sent these out?

“It would be nice to do more interactive things at the next holiday with everyone”

My Jump: So they expect me to plan this then be responsible for meeting everyone’s idea of what is fun?

“We need to make sure we are attentive to the bottom line”

My Jump: So they are saying that I am overspending?

There are risks in jumping to offense, just like the risk of jumping off a cliff. It is dangerous and there is unseen peril just beyond the lip. Luckily I am beginning to notice this pattern as it occurs (or shortly afterwards).

I realize that I need to retrain my mind to see the warning sign on the edge of that cliff before I go off jumping. Picturing that warning sign helps, but also explaining to the person I am talking with if it begins to happen.

Here are a few tips for my fellow jumpers:

  1. Recognize your bent toward Jumping to Offense.
  2. Understand that Jumping to Offense is dangerous, for you and others.
  3. Slow down and listen, don’t respond right away.
  4. Ask clarifying questions, make sure you understand what the other person is saying.
  5. If you do jump, climb back up and reconcile with those around you.
  6. Repeat steps as needed.

Where are you Jumping to Offense? Take a few moments to think about where you could, as my grandmother always used to say, “look before you leap.”

P.S. I am going to print out this photo and put it where I can see it every day.

Everything Requires a Conversation

A few days ago, I sat down with someone who began discussing a few issues that needed to be addressed in their workplace.  All were minor issues, but were getting in the way of getting goals accomplished and creating some minor disruptions or tension throughout their building.

The first issue was described in detail with a question at the end.

“What do you think I need to do about this?”

“It sounds like you need to have a conversation.”

The next issue was described, this time it was about a conflict and how another person’s work-style was causing disruption.

“What do you think I need to do about them?

“It sounds like you need to have a conversation.”

By the time we approached the third issue, it became clear that this was even more complex and involved multiple departments and people.  Again the question came.

“What do you think I need to do about this?”

But before I could answer…

“I know what you are doing to say…EVERYTHING REQUIRES A CONVERSATION!”

I paused, wrote it down on a sticky note and posted it on my computer monitor.  They were right.  Most, if not all of the conflicts and issues at home, in the office, or where you volunteer exist because people are involved.  The only way to make progress is to have a conversation.

I am not saying that these conversations are easy.  I spent a good portion of my time facilitating conversations between individuals and teams that have gone far too long without having the conversations needed to address the issues when they were small.

Take out a piece of paper and make a list of the top three conversations you should be having.  They are not always easy, but for me making a list helps keep me accountable to accomplish the task, especially when it is a difficult one.  And remember, everything requires a conversation.