A co-worker comes to you to complain about her boss. How should you respond?
a. Listen with empathy.
b. Offer solutions.
c. Find a graceful exit.
Answer: It depends on the outcome you want. Before reacting, pause, focus on the outcome and then choose your reaction.
Example: If you want her to feel supported, choose “a.” If you want to help her, choose “b.” If you just want to get back to work, choose “c.”
It can be a challenge to think about the outcome you want, even as you’re confronted with the emotions of others. “You react to the event because it’s asking you to react to it,” writes consultant Peter Bregman on Harvard Business’s “How We Work” blog.
“Something or someone hooks us and we react,” he writes. “Someone yells at us, we yell back and create the outcome of a damaged relationship. But just because the event catalyzed your action, doesn’t mean it should determine it.”
Next time, before you react, ask yourself what outcome you want.