I’m cycling through Boulder.
I catch up with a group of fifteen cyclists and decide to join them.
At a red light, one of the cyclists said this to me in an angry tone:
“Hey man, drop the f back. We’re all together.”
I join groups all the time, so I was rather taken back by his tone.
Had I said, “Lighten up, dude. I’m an experienced rider!” I’m certain the situation would have escalated into something ugly and unnecessary.
Fortunately, a few years ago, I downloaded the Christopher Voss 2.0 EQ update.
I exercised self-restraint (even though I was irked about his tone) and validated what he said.
I paused for two beats and, in a calm voice, said, “Sounds like you don’t want some inexperienced rider from Florida hitting your rear tire.”
“You probably deal with wheel suckers like me all the time.”
Voss calls this an accusation audit.
By proactively labeling the negative emotions the other person is probably feeling, you turn the volume down. I find that bringing a little self-deprecating humor into the accusation audit goes a long way.
You’re demonstrating that you understand how the other person is feeling and in doing so make them feel heard and validated.
The cyclist immediately said, “That’s right. There’s a lot of people visiting this month who don’t know how to ride.”
“Seems like you really know how to keep things safe out here.” (Labeling.)
Labeling is a verbal observation of another person.
When you label a positive you reinforce it. Even just a slight compliment helps. Nothing too over the top.
Here’s the cyclist:
“You seem like you know what you’re doing. Feel free to join us if you can keep up being from Florida and all -:).”
Look how fast the cyclist changed his mind, literally at a red light.
Knowing what to say to make people feel heard and understood is a superpower for getting through to anyone in your personal and professional life.