Archive for the ‘anger management’ Category

The Biggest Conflict Mistake You Don’t Know You’re Making

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Yelling cartoon

Has this ever happened to you? You are in the midst of a crucial conversation and the other person becomes very emotional or intense. They might even begin to yell or behave in a hostile fashion. Most people will the get drawn into a discussion of this inappropriate behavior.  The conversation may then continue along the lines of :

  • “Stop yelling at me.”
  • “I’m not yelling!”
  • “Yes, you are!”
  • “Well, you don’t listen!

The conversation, which may originally have been about a crucial business or personal issue, has now morphed into a “conversation about how you are having the conversation.”  This is known as meta-commuication, communication about communication.  And, while it has it’s place, it is a poor choice to meta-communicate right in the middle of conflict and confrontation.

The next time someone engages in an (inappropriate) emotional outburst during conflict, resist the temptation to start talking about how they are communicating and stay focused on the core issue as much as possible. This doesn’t mean to let others bully or to continue to be mean, rude and nasty. However, if you can use other assertive techniques first (like the feel, felt, found technique) instead of calling out their behavior, you stand a greater chance of reaching resolution on the core issue.

Avoid the biggest conflict mistake you perhaps didn’t know you were making. Avoid meta-communication in the midst of conflict and stick to the issue at hand.

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#1 Way to Deal With Difficult People

Java Printingby Pamela Jett, CSP

Difficult people are everywhere. There are exploders, snipers, steamrollers, and chronic complainers in our personal lives and in our professional lives. While it might be possible in our personal lives to avoid difficult people to a degree, it is virtually impossible to do so at work.

To make things even more challenging, we can’t make a difficult person not be difficult. What is helpful is to understand the #1 reason difficult people are difficult.

Difficult people are difficult because it is working for them.

They are getting some sort of reward or payoff with their difficult behavior. Perhaps it is attention. Perhaps it is a sense of power of control. Perhaps their reward is that they get their way.

While we can’t make them not be difficult, we can train the difficult person that while their difficult behavior might be working with others, it does not work with us. Ask yourself “what is the reward they are seeking?” And, then decide if you are willing to give it. Sometimes it is a simple as deciding not to commiserate with a chronic complainer or to not explode back (or give them control) when an exploder explodes.

For more techniques to deal with difficult people, check out the up-coming webinar “Snipers, Steamrollers, and Chronic Complainers” at


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Trigger Cooperation – Not Defensiveness

steaming madby Pamela Jett, CSP

Conflict is inevitable, in even the very best workplaces and relationships. Some people, however, seem to engage in conflict and confrontation with more confidence and with less escalation. Here are are few tips to help you do the same.


Quit taking it personally. Remember, it is typically not about you (even when others try to make it sound like it is.) When other people behave in combative and hostile ways it is typically a reflection of their fears and insecurities.

Respond as Opposed to React

Professionals choose their behavior based on their values and objectives as opposed to simply reacting to the behaviors of others.

Be an Exceptional Listener

In particular, listen for the unspoken fear in the other person’s communication. Often, the difficult or inappropriate behaviors of others is based in fear. Understanding that can enhance our ability to respond effectively.

Words Matter

Choose your words wisely. Some words can trigger defensiveness and others cooperation. Be intentional in your word choice.

For more tools and techniques to help you manage conflict and confrontation with more confidence, visit

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The Worst Communication Advice We’ve Ever Heard

by Pamela Jett, CSP

As a leader, you’ve likely been to countless workshops, read numerous books, and accepted sage advice from mentors. Some of it fabulous, some not.

The worst communication advice that I hear and read over and over again is that leaders, for the sake of transparency and to build trust, need to be 100% honest.  Yikes!!!

While on it’s face, this advice is aimed at helping leaders keep employees informed, stopping the rumor mill, and resisting the urge to keep vital information “secret” or on a “need to know basis,” it can often be interpreted as license to say whatever leaders are thinking or feeling in the moment. And that is a poor choice.

Great leaders know that candid communication matters. They also know that having a “filter” matters. There are times and circumstances when it is wise to refrain from saying anything or to edit your initial thoughts and communicate them in a more tactful fashion. Great leaders “think before they speak” and make sure what they say, and how they say it, is in alignment with the kind of leader they want to be.

woman hand over mouthQuick tip:  Be “honest” and engage your filter for great leadership communication!


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“You Don’t Understand” – Words to Choose and Words to Lose

jettlogo2Have you ever found yourself in a difficult conversation feeling frustrated? Misunderstood? Devalued? These negative emotions can often lead to communication choices that are counterproductive. For example, have you ever said (or, let’s be candid, maybe even yelled) “you don’t understand” during a difficult conversation? Not surprisingly, this can trigger defensiveness and hostility in others.

Here are a few thoughts about what to say instead. First, check yourself. Are you sure they don’t understand? Might some of your frustration stem from them not agreeing? Sometimes, we accuse people of not understanding or not listening to us when the truth is that they likely understand, but don’t agree.

Next, choose to communicate in a way that accurately expresses what you are feeling in a non-accusatory way such as:

  • “I’m not feeling heard.”
  • “I’m not feeling valued.”
  • “I’m feeling frustrated.”


  • “We see this differently.”
  • “We have different perspectives at play here.”

While none of these options will work in every single difficult conversation, they are alternatives to the accusatory “you don’t understand” and can often move a conversation forward in a less hostile, more productive way.

For more of the words to choose and the words to lose, read Pamela’s book “Communicate to Keep ‘Em” available here.

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How NOT to Start a Crucial Conversation

by Pamela Jett, CSP

I recently had a discussion with someone very close to me about a very difficult and emotionally charged situation for both of us.  Over the course of a few days we had numerous conversations about the situation, most of which went very smoothly.  However, one of the conversations was especially challenging for me.  I had to struggle not to get defensive.  I had to struggle to be the master of my emotions and not let my emotions be the master of me.  I had to work very hard for a positive conversational outcome.  And, I am confident my conversational partner had to do the same.

As I look back over this tough conversation, I wondered “what triggered me?”  “Why was this conversation more difficult emotionally than all the others on the same topic over the past few days?”  What I realized is that the first words out of my conversational partner’s mouth triggered defensiveness that I had to work hard to overcome.  These words, on some level, were insulting to me and I struggled from that moment forward.  While unintentional, my conversational partner provided an example of how NOT to start a crucial conversation.

“I know you don’t understand”  were the trigger words for me.  Here is what they produced in me and what they might produce in others if you use them during a crucial conversation:

  • I felt the urge to say “yes I do” in a defensive fashion.
  • I felt insulted – as if all the effort to be a good listener, to be open minded, and empathetic during previous conversations on the subject was not only wasted, but unappreciated.
  • I felt the urge to “correct”, to put on my “communication expert” hat and explain that there is a difference between not understanding and not agreeing.

All of these responses would have been counter-productive, would have taken the conversation in the wrong direction, and likely would have made my conversational partner feel defensive.

So what could have been used instead of “I know you don’t understand?”   Here are some options:

  • You may see it differently.
  • You might not agree.
  • I’ m aware we have different thoughts, feelings on this.
Each of these options demonstrates an understanding that agreeing and understanding are two separate things.  And by avoiding “You don’t understand” you are less likely to trigger defensiveness in others.  Making this small change can make a big difference during a crucial conversation.
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Communicating with Emotional Intelligence – The Other Kind of Smart

by Pamela Jett, CSP

Have you ever said something you regret?  Have you ever wished your “filter” was set at a higher calibration?  If so, you are like many who are looking to communicate with more emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive and constructive ways.  The great news is that emotional intelligence can be enhanced.  Here are 3 simple ways to enhance your emotional intelligence and take your communication to a more effective level.

1.  Embrace the power of choice.  People with strong emotional intelligence skills recognize that in any given situation they can choose how they behave and even, sometimes, how they feel.  This gives them power and confidence.  They no longer see themselves as victims of circumstances, events, or people.  Of course, when you embrace the power of choice, when you fully accept that you are 100% responsible for your actions, then you are no longer able to blame other people or events.  Emotionally intelligent people are grateful for the power of choice, they embrace that power, and refuse to see themselves as victims.  So, the next time you find yourself thinking something like “they made me angry” or justifying yelling or being rude to someone because “they were rude first” recognize that in that moment you are giving the power to others.  Strive to “own” your feelings and actions.  Replace “they made me angry” with “I was angry.”  By owning the emotion and subsequent actions, you are well on your way towards becoming more emotionally intelligent.

2.  Quit taking it personally.  Emotionally intelligent people recognize that while the behavior of others can, at times, feel very personal, it usually isn’t.  When people are mean, rude, or nasty it is typically a reflection of their fears and insecurities.  Emotionally intelligent people listen for the unspoken fears or concerns of others (especially those who are lashing out or being difficult) and use that insight to choose their response.  They next time someone says something that seems like a personal attack, ask yourself “what are they afraid of?”  This perspective changing question won’t change their behavior, but it can help you to quit taking it personally.

3.  Remember, words matter.  Emotionally intelligent people recognize that words have power.  Words can build people up or tear people down.  Words can wound and words can heal.  Emotionally intelligent people not only recognize the power of words, they try to choose their words wisely. They make efforts to express themselves clearly and accurately.  They are aware that certain words and phrases can trigger defensiveness and hostility in others, making communication and connection more difficult.  They take care when communicating and choose their words wisely.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most valuable assets a professional can leverage.  Join me, Pamela, for one of my upcoming virtual programs to discover more tools and techniques you can use to build your emotional intelligence skills.



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Survey Reveals – Communication Most Important

by Pamela Jett, CSP

I’ve long suspected the research would bear this truth out – good communication is one of, if not the, most important skills sets professionals can possess.  Now, the research results are in and it’s official!

I recently surveyed hundreds of professionals about the importance and power of communication.  Here are a few of the most interesting results:

  • 41% of respondents indicated that communication is the most important skill set in the workplace.
  • 50% of respondents indicated that communication is an extremely important skill set in the workplace.

When those in leadership positions were asked what type of communication skills they would most like to see their employees improve the top answers were:

  1. The ability to deal more effectively with difficult people
  2. The ability to handle conflict and confrontation
  3. The ability to communicate with emotional intelligence.

What are you doing to improve your communication skills in these areas?  Are you consistently looking for new tools and techniques for dealing with difficult people?  Are you working to gain more emotional intelligence so that that you can handle conflict and confrontation with tact and finesse?

Communication is the most important skill set we possess.  I invite you to work consistently to build your communication skills and reap the rewards in your professional life.

What do you think about the importance of communication?  Leave a comment on this blog and watch for more survey results coming soon.

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Conflict, Communication, and Your Emotional Vocabulary

by Pamela Jett, CSP

The deepest need of the human soul is to be understood.

I believe this to be true and it is especially true during conflict and confrontation or emotionally charged situations.  We are looking for others to “get it” or to understand what we are feeling.  And, when we don’t feel understood it can lead to genuine frustration, damaged relationships, and increased conflict.

While we can’t make people better listeners and we can’t improve the empathy skills of others, we can do one simple thing that will increase the likelihood that we will be more fully understood during emotional conversation.  We can build our emotional vocabularies.

I believe that many of us are walking around with fairly limited emotional vocabularies.  We feel rich, complex, and diverse emotions, but we tend to rely on the same limited number of words to express those feelings.  For example, when we are feeling confused and frustrated by another’s behavior we often simply say we are “angry.”  Or, when we are feeling lonely and under-appreciated we might simply say we are feeling “sad.”  Or, when we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control we might resort to labeling that complex state as simply being “stressed.”

Is it any wonder that we don’t feel understood when we are oversimplifying our emotional states?  If you are looking for others to better understand what you are feeling, get better at accurately expressing those feelings.  Build your emotional vocabulary.

When you more accurately describe your internal state, you will likely receive a more on target or “understanding” response from others.  While this doesn’t solve all the challenges during emotional conversations, it can help us each feel more understood and that is a great place to start!

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Balance for Better Communication

By Pamela Jett

The other day I was working with clients and we were discussing how when we are “out of balance” emotionally (such as being angry), spiritually (such as being burnt out), physically (such as not getting good nutrition, rest and exercise) and mentally (not learning new things regularly to enhance career success), it is very difficult to use the good communication skills that we do indeed possess.

For example, if you are tired and feeling a bit overworked or under appreciated, it might be difficult to say “no” with tact and finesse to a colleague who requests that you help them with their project. (for more on how to say no with tact and finesse, check this blog’s archives and visit for resources) Under more “balanced” circumstances, you might be able to easily access the good communication skills you posses. However, when we are “out of balance”, we are more likely to say things we regret. Below are a few quick tips to help you maintain “balance” for better communication.

1. Remember that out of control emotions can make even smart people stupid. We want to be the master of our emotions and not let our emotions be the master of us. How do we do that? By using smart self talk during emotionally charged situations. By that I mean, when you are experiencing intense (and sometimes counter-productive emotions) you can move yourself out of your “emotional processing center” of the brain and into the “logical processing center” of the brain by engaging in smart self-talk such as trying to think of the names of the seven drawfs or doing sophisticated math in your head. By consciously over-riding your emotional processing center and accessing you logical processing center you are far more likely to choose your responses and words wisely in emotionally charged situations.

2. Remember to take time to “feed your soul”. It is very difficult in our current culture of be more, do more, have more to take time to relax and “feed your soul”. However, taking time in our regular schedule to do things that bring us joy can help us be more balanced. For example, many people take time for a hobby, or to read for pleasure, or to spend time with family and friends, listen to music, garden, the list of possibilities is endless. A balanced person takes time for themselves and spends time in joyful pursuits.

3. Value yourself enough to take care of yourself. This means the simple things like getting 6-8 hours of sleep a night, eating your breakfast, finding time for exercise. While we all know how to take care of ourselves, we often put ourselves last, taking care of everyone and everything else before we take care of ourselves. The flight attendants have it right when they say “put your own oxygen mask on before assisting those around you”. An empty well gives no drink. Take the time to take care of yourself and you will find that it is easier to use the good communication skills you do indeed possess.

4. Get new “brain wrinkles” regularly. Did you know that when you learn something new you get a literal “wrinkle” in your brain? The matter in your head creates connections called neuro-pathways and they are like small wrinkles in our brains. The balanced individual takes time to learn new things regularly for their personal and professional development. They know that “knowledge is power”, so they make a commitment to invest in themselves. Benjamin Franklin said “empty your pockets to feed your mind and your mind will feed your pockets.” Powerful. I am convinced that people who are dedicated to learning new skills (even when it means investing thier own resources to do so) in all areas of their lives are better communicators because they simply have more options to choose from. I applaud the readers of this blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide those new skills, the new “brain wrinkles” so that my readers can experience more communication success.

If you would like more ways to “wrinkle your brain”, visit If you have a suggestion or there is a skill set you would like this blog to address, drop a note to

Pamela Jett is a communication skills expert who believes that words matter. She works with organizations, associations and individuals who want to improve their communication skills for business and personal success. She can be reached toll free at 866.726.5388 or at her website

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