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When pitching a difficult client or confronting a challenging colleague, bracing for the worst can create a self fulfilling prophecy. Learn to disarm defensiveness in yourself and others to make for production exchanges, even when navigating the most difficult territory.

Fear about the outcome of a meeting triggers an ancient part of your brain, called the Amygdala. This instinctual brain center treats imminent danger like a threat to your life (even if it's just an overbearing client, and not a saber-toothed tiger) and shuts down your critical thinking to flip you into survival mode. Often referred to as the “Fight, Flight or Freeze Reflex,” an Amygdala Hijack robs you of your potential to creatively work through difficult communications. We all know the remorse of, “I wish I would have said….” 

Here are 3 tools to help you deal with challenging communication:

1. GO ON A FACT FINDING MISSION. Think of everything the other person does as a new clue. The more clues you gather, the more you’ll be able to tailor your pitch/argument to the way they're thinking about the situation. It’s often shocking the distance between two people’s stories about the same event. The more you learn, the more you’ll speak in a way that resonates with the listener.

2. SET CLEAR BOUNDARIES AND GOALS AHEAD OF TIME. Instead of getting defensive, go into difficult communications with concrete goals and limits that you’ve thought about before the pressure was on. This will allow you to be present and listen in the moment because you’ll have already calculated your decisions in a level headed atmosphere. 

3. IDENTIFY YOUR TRIGGERS. Expecting to stay 100% calm, cool and collected is a recipe for failure. Difficult conversations are exactly that, hard. Make a list of what the other person could say that you’d find most upsetting. These are your “triggers.” During the conversation, stay aware of “triggers” and take a deep breath when you hear one. This exercise allows you to notice the trigger and move on instead of getting caught up in an instinctual, emotional response.

For more techniques about how to handle difficult pitches and conversations, contact Laura Ramadei at UP.