Whether you’re dealing
with change resistance, an overly dominant team member, or simply trying to discuss
an uncomfortable topic, don’t be surprised if people try to pull the
conversation off track.

Changing the subject by introducing
a related topic is somewhat easy to identify.

There are well established
ways to manage topics that aren’t immediately relevant to the discussion: the
“parking lot”,
taking the topic “offline” for exploration and validation, etc.   

But, what if the diversion
is personal?

What if someone questions
your motives?

Or what if they voice
doubt about your respect for them, your commitment to the organization, or the
health of your relationship?

When that happens, it’s
very easy to forget your purpose and give in to the temptation to react emotionally
– even defensively.

Don’t do it!

If at first you can’t maintain
your objectivity, find a way to graciously retreat. Decide how you want to handle the comments
when you can be more rational.

Don’t be tempted to label
the originator as the problem. Whether
true or not there is no value that can come from it and there is potential

Objectively consider the
underlying issues, label them as the problem, and work through them. If you find this difficult, get help from a
trusted third party.

Once you’ve managed the
underlying issues, you may find it beneficial to address the comments privately and directly with the

Separate the facts from
the feelings and assumptions and discuss them. Be clear. Try not to leave room
for misunderstandings.

If the comments were
genuine, you might just find that your relationship with that person is
strengthened by the encounter.

If they were not, then at
least you did the right thing!

Bonus Round
If you’re going to facilitate
or lead progress in difficult situations, get to know your own hot buttons and
develop ways to manage your reactions to them.

Do you need to be the good
guy? Do you want everyone to like
you? Are you incited when someone
questions your integrity?

Whatever it is – figure it
out before they do!