By Elaine Stattler
There are times when being a wimp can help you. “It can help you successfully navigate volatile situations, protect important relationships and get you what you want professionally,” says communication consultant Geoffrey Tumlin.
Let’s take a look at two situations in which being the so-called weaker party can help you.1. Joe, the receiving manager, has a reputation for being difficult to work with. He sends you a nasty email and copies the entire team. What do you do?
A. Write a scathing response and hit “reply all.”
B. Let Joe think he won.
The answer is B. Getting into an argument with Joe would win you nothing. Why? Because his behavior is so common that everyone sees through it and ignores him. You are better served by not replying because his tirade will hurt him more than it hurts you.2. You are the team leader, working with five other managers on a project. One of the managers, Bob, arrives late for a meeting. You’re annoyed and berate him in front of the group for being inconsiderate. The minute you do it, you realize you are totally out of line. Do you:
A. Wait until later to approach him and try to set things right.
B. Remain silent and hope nothing comes of it.
C. Immediately apologize for your inappropriate behavior.
The answer is C. It’s better to swallow your pride and say you’re sorry. “Salvaging a working relationship and staying on track to accomplish your goals is worth a momentary blow to your pride,” Tumlin says. “Apologizing is a powerful communication maneuver, and it cures a wide variety of interpersonal ills. Most people have a very hard time refusing a sincere and timely apology.
“We all too often use more force than we need to accomplish our objectives,” Tumlin says. “We yell when a measured response would work better, send a blistering email when a more restrained reply would suffice or issue an ultimatum when a firm but gentle statement of convictions would do.”
No matter how justified you may feel at the moment, using excessive force isn’t a winning strategy. “Being what some would call a ‘wimp’ is often an effective response. And in the right circumstances, it can even be a way to get ahead,” he adds.