Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
Just in time for Thanksgiving!
There are many traits that make someone a “difficult person.” But one type is the conversational “bomb-thrower.”
The “bomb-thrower” finds civil conversation boring, so they chime in with a controversy-inducing comment, and then sit back and watch everything blow up around them.
As leaders, we can make the choice to deal with the interpersonal situation without engaging in the controversy.
If appropriate, call out the behavior directly. “C’mon, Bob. You know we agreed not to discuss politics at Thanksgiving.” “You tryin’ to start a fight, Jill?” “You know that discussing that will just make everyone miserable, Terry.” If possible, keep your comments light and friendly, as if they have accidentally overstepped the conversational boundaries, even if you’re pretty sure it’s intentional.
Change the subject. “Think it’s going to snow this weekend?” “How’s your Christmas shopping coming?” “Hey, check out this amazing substack I get sent right to my email inbox every workday.”
If possible, talk to the person you think might create this disruption in advance and REQUEST that they CHOOSE to keep the conversation pleasant, inclusive, and non-polarizing. You can also talk to their potential targets and REQUEST that they CHOOSE not to engage, e.g., “Don’t feed the trolls” or “You know he’s looking to get a rise out of you—don’t give him the satisfaction.” Don’t TELL them what to do—ASK them to HELP. It’s much more likely to get them to stay on the high road.
Remember that they may consider YOU their target. Make the conscious choice not to engage. Just because someone invites you to an argument does not mean you have to accept their invitation.
Good luck, and Happy Thanksgiving!
I’ll be posting again on Monday the 29th.