The following two incidents , one at work and the other at home would put things in perspective.
I remember one incident in office where there was an impending senior management visit along with one of our client representative. This account was crucial so much so that they contributed a significant amount to our bottom line.
Our boss gave us a whole lot of tasks to complete before the D-day. Our team had burnt the midnight oil in getting things ready and waited with excitement to showcase our capabilities both to the client and to the senior management team.
The day arrived, the client and our management team arrived and were first involved in a long closed door meeting with our Boss. Our excitement turned to dejection when post that meeting, the team just left and our Boss after sending them off got back to his seat and started to work as if we didn’t exist.
All of us were fuming and wanted to know what happened and why we were not met by the client and the management team. We confronted our boss and what irritated us was his response “Hey, they didn’t find the need and so did I at that moment, so what’s the big deal?”
This is where it started to get ugly and we shot back in unison “next time we are not going to do an overnight’er and this is the last time. You know we worked our ass off for you and you didn’t even bother to come by and let us know what happened”
This was going nowhere as he shot back “You guys don’t have to tell me how to run the business. I am the one who decides and I am clear that it was the most appropriate thing to do at that time, that of not making them stay longer”
This response clearly indicated that the Boss here has taken the confrontation as a show of disrespect by his team on his judgment of the situation. The dialogue had turned critical and heading towards conflict.
A similar dialogue at home, when I returned home late from work as we had a huge crisis to be dealt with in office. It was both mentally and physically exhausting. The moment I entered home, my Wife shouted “I’ve been waiting here like an idiot, thinking that you will come early today and take me out on a promised date and here you are who didn’t care to even inform me. You never keep your promises and this is the last time I am believing you”
This dialogue was also turning critical. I shot back “Oh! please give me a break. I am already exhausted dealing with all that is happening in office and now I have you to content with at home”
Both these instance will tell you when the dialogue gets critical. It’s the type of response we give or get during such conversation.
In both instances you will find that the parties involved i.e, Boss and Team, Spouse and Yourself, the outbursts were an indication that all felt violated and were fighting for respect. People felt ‘hurt’.
The best option is for you to step out of the ‘content’ of the dialogue and see what caused this aggressive response.
An apology would have done a world of good and moved the dialogue into a more meaningful understanding of each other.
An apology which sincerely expresses your regret in your role to have caused that hurt in others. The boss could have simply responded by saying “I am so sorry, I couldn’t give you guys an opportunity to showcase your work, after all the hard work you put in” This would have led the team to then calm down and start asking more meaningful questions like “what transpired in the meeting?” etc.
Similarly, I could have just responded with something like “I am so sorry, I know I screwed up and couldn’t make it early and I didn’t call you” I couldn’t extricate myself from the mess in office” Would have brought my wife to at least calm down and ask “what happened” instead of blaming me.
In both instances I felt an apology would have moved the dialogue from critical to meaningful. My wife keeps reminding me all the time that a “sorry” would help than attacking back. It irritates her that instead of showing some respect, I start to attack as a defense mechanism. It then escalates into a full scale show down with no meaningful conclusion and a lot of ‘hurt’ as residue.
We seem to always get caught in the fight to win and our ego adds fuel to the fire. The best way is to sacrifice a bit of your ego by admitting your mistakes.
Now I know, we place high value to our ‘ego’. But whenever you give up something you value, you are rewarded with something even more valuable, i.e., a healthy dialogue and better outcome.
All it takes is an apology!