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A characteristic of a winning athlete is one who can maintain their composure in a stressful situation. Have you ever noticed that this seems easier for some people than for others?

Maintaining composure doesn’t mean you become emotionless. Those that are the most successful have identified their triggers and a few tools to manage these situations.

If you let yourself act difficult in a difficult situation, then you create a difficult hour – day – maybe even a difficult week for yourself.

When someone calls in a panic, do you go into panic mode too?

When the person you are dealing with becomes difficult, do you become defensive and difficult too?

“No one can enter your castle unless you let them.”

The Validation Principle.

This may take you out of your comfort zone and with discipline and practice it will soon be a part of your regular behaviors.

Here is what I want you to do. When faced with a difficult situation, pause before jumping in with an answer and simply acknowledge or validate out loud how the other person was feeling. In total, it takes about five seconds.

For instance, by saying, “I can understand why you’re frustrated by this. I would be too under the circumstances. I can help.” You don’t have to make that part up because you will simply be repeating the other person’s feeling (frustrated, panicked, concerned, worried, or rushed) and you know you can help.

Validating the other person’s emotional state will change the tone – for the better – of the exchange. You might think that saying something like “I can understand why you’re frustrated by this," was conceding defeat. You might think that empathizing with the other person, when you’re the one getting beaten up, would put you in a position of weakness. Actually, though, those five seconds are the exact opposite of defeat. They certainly didn’t signal weakness. On the contrary – they created a position of strength from which I could act.

It’s easy to react with an emotion – angry, impatient, annoyed, defiant, victimized, sulky – when you’re in the presence of a difficult person. It takes a lot of strength and discipline to remain calm and composed and not react emotionally – instead to pause and acknowledge how the other person is feeling. But this is the single best thing anyone can do to manage difficult people.

The validation principle is simply recognizing and then acknowledging the other person’s emotional state, whether or not you agree with it.

This principle works very well with employees, bosses, customers and co-workers.

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