Use Empathy to de-escalate hot situations
Reflect and Diminish is a technique to deescalate situations where emotions run hot, and where decision making ability is compromised. Letting emotions drive decisions is a mistake, but this does not mean leaders should be devoid of emotions.
In situations where someone is overly emotional, it is important to both empathize with the person but to also reduce the emotion to a more controlled level so that you can focus on solving the problem at hand.
Reflect and Diminish: Reflect the emotions you are seeing but diminish them to a more controlled level.
When a teammate comes in fuming and screaming about the failure of the supply department to deliver materials on time, instead of telling them to calm down, raise your voice a little to reflect the anger, but diminish the emotion so it isn’t as strong as theirs.
It might end up sounding something like, “You’ve got to be kidding! How late are they with the delivery?”
With that statement, and the emotions reflected, you are now on your teammate’s side. “Two days!” your team mate replies, still mad, but with less venom.
Now you can settle down a little bit more. “Two days is way too long. We need to fix that permanently. But we also need to do something to fix the predicament that you’re in. How can I help you make that happen?”
Within this brief exchange, the situation has settled down, and you and your teammate can start to solve the actual problem at hand.
This technique works with just about any emotion. If someone is sad, reflect but diminish that sadness. If someone is envious, mirror a bit of envy before responding. Even when someone thinks a comment or situation is funny and you don’t, telling them to tighten it up and be serious is going to make them think you don’t have a sense of humour. Instead, smile and maybe chuckle, and then explain why you both need to take things a little more seriously. Because your teammate sees you have a sense of humour, and because you connect with them, they are much more likely to listen to you.
This technique works up and down the chain of command. Don’t isolate yourself emotionally from your team members. Instead foster shared emotions – reflect their emotions but diminish them so they de-escalate, and so you can focus on solving the problem at hand.
The above is an excerpt from the book “Leadership Strategy and Tactics“
by Jocko Willink