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What to do when interrupted

For the past two years, I have been attending regular committee meetings with Anne. At nearly every meeting there would be a moment when Hannah would interrupt to correct something Anne had said. Sometimes it was to reveal some previous incident when the action Anne was suggesting had been tried without success. Sometimes it was to correct the date of an action (e.g., last Monday rather than last Tuesday). Sometimes it was to point out potential consequences that Anne had not addressed.

I observed two things:

  • Hannah only did this to Anne

  • Every time, Anne would say, “Thank goodness we have Hannah to correct me.” Or more recently, “I am sure Hannah will correct me if I haven’t got this quite right.”

I wondered how Anne could tolerate the constant interruptions. It was annoying me, and I am not even on the committee. When I asked her about it, Anne chuckled and said, “You know there was a time when I too would have been irritated by Hannah. And I would have retaliated by lashing out at her.

at“My response would have disrupted the meeting even further, and put everyone on edge. Since that was not productive, I decided to apply The Platinum Rule® instead.

“You see Hannah is a Socializing Thinker profile. The things that are important to her are:

  • Being right … absolutely right

  • Being recognized … for being right

“My profile is Relating Director. The things that are important to me are:

  • Results … get the job done

  • Relationships … making sure everyone feels safe expressing themselves, maintaining peace and harmony.

“So, while I could stand in my own preferences and demand that Hannah focus on the outcome and on reaching consensus (treating her the way I would like to be treated), it is more productive and collegial to treat her the way she wants to be treated.

"By giving Hannah the opportunity to shine as she shares her knowledge, appreciating her for correcting me and acknowledging the value she brings to the committee, we both achieve our goals.

“By graciously welcoming her input, I put Hannah on my side as an ally rather than setting her up as an adversary."

Hmmm. I asked for clarification, "I get that but so often the points she makes are trivial. Who cares if it was Monday or Tuesday?"

“Exactly. Who cares? The exact day is not germane to my point. I could be more mindful of that and say last week rather than naming a precise day. Or, I could give Hannah a gift – making a deliberate error so she will feel fulfilled when she points out my mistake.

“Hannah feels good, and I can get on with the discussion.”

Now that I think about this, I have seen Anne do this in other circumstances. She graciously accepts the correction, thanks the other person, and moves on

Does this approach detract from Anne’s credibility?


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