Leaders Address Exaggerating During Conflict

I have a couple pet peeves. One of them involves name tags.

I hate wearing name tags, but I’m in a lot of situations where people have to wear them: training sessions, week-long camps, trade shows. And I get it – it’s important for people to have an identifiable status, to connect, to be a temporary community.

Sometimes, I’m in charge of an event and I have to prescribe the name tag requirement. One time, people were fighting the requirement. I was asked, “Why do we have to wear these everywhere, all day, all week long?” and I exaggerated:

“I know it’s a hassle, but look, we need to make sure everyone at this camp knows who the counselors are. We need the new counselors to be identifiable to the directors…”

I could have stopped there, but the look on his face was skeptical, and I needed to really pile on, so I continued…

“The campers won’t wear them unless we do. We preach no double standard, so we’d better not have one either…”

Now, these aren’t bad reasons. But, I was piling on quite a bit. When you give lots of reasons for something, or exaggerate the situation, you can lose credibility because your intensity is confusing.

Then, I really went too far, “…and local security needs to see our identity, because if they don’t, we could get detained.”

Technically, I suppose that’s true, but I made it up; I exaggerated it.

The staff person raised his eyebrows, cocked his head, paused, and said “Really?”

I lost him. In my attempt to make the situation sound as bad as it felt to me, I hurt the relationship and my credibility by exaggerating.

What was really happening? I hate wearing name tags, and don’t like making others wear them. So, when I’m in the role of expecting this, I get really irrationally uptight when people fight the expectation.

What to do?

When you catch yourself exaggerating, ask yourself, “What is the actual reason my emotions are so intense right now?”

When your team members start exaggerating, try asking, “I’m interested – help us understand what the underlying issue is here.”

This is the 7th post in an 18-part series discussing what not to do during conflict situations. Effective leaders avoid portraying these 18 behaviors during conflict and address them in others. Follow along as we explore the negative impact of these behaviors, and what to do instead.

Post 1: Leaders Address Arguing During Conflict
Post 2: Leaders Address Belittling During Conflict
Post 3: Leaders Address Caving In During Conflict
Post 4: Leaders Address Being Defensive During Conflict   
Post 5: Leaders Address Dismissing Others’ Opinions During Conflict 
Post 6: Leaders Address Drama During Conflict

4 Responses

  1. Rob Graziano
    | Reply

    Thanks, Alan. Excellent article and reflection. Tough situation and something everyone has probably done before.

    • Alan Feirer
      | Reply

      Thanks, Rob. We’ve all been there. A MILLION TIMES! ;D

  2. Sally
    | Reply

    Been there, done that. Thanks for this entire series.

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