In nature, weak animals use bluffs to appear powerful and threatening. Skunks are a great example. Their only weapon is noxious, but harmless fumes. The powerless skunk’s goal is to make us afraid, but it’s a bluff. Negative emotion is like skunk spray. When someone releases a noxious tirade, we tend to react against a perceived threat. That’s a natural response, but like skunk spray an emotional tirade is just vapor. If there’s no actual threat, it’s unpleasant but harmless. Rather than reacting, recognize that an emotional spew is just a cloud of feelings. Don’t be fooled by the bluff. Instead, neutralize the stink with 4 steps:
- Recognize the stinky tirade as a bluff not a threat. (Respond appropriately to a real threat)
- Fully acknowledge the underlying concern driving the tirade.
- Express a genuine desire to resolve the issue.
- Address the concern with a problem-solving focus.
If the individual is too overcome by their own emotional effluent to shift gears, repeat steps 2 – 4. People often need time clear their eruptions. If the person can’t shift from tirade to talking, respectfully suggest revisiting the concern at a later time. Then, graciously remove yourself from the situation. You were sprayed with stink, but no real harm done. We all run across an emotional skunk occasionally. Unless a skunk becomes a persistent pest, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just part of life.