You’re in the midst of a negotiation and your counterpart says or does something that really ruffles your feathers. Or, your colleague, significant other, client, friend, or anyone else in your life says or does something that is so irritating that you’re ready to explode. We’ve all been there – that’s for sure. The question is, “what’s a productive way to deal with it?”

One thing that we suggest is assume that the other person did not intend for their words or action to have a negative impact on you. That is not to say that you don’t deserve to feel the way that you do; rather, we suggest that you be open to the idea that the other person might have had pure intentions. Once you are in this mindset, you should address the issue with the other party by expressing the impact that their actions had on you. You can then ask if that was their intention. For example, someone might say to their colleague, “When you took over the presentation, I felt that my credibility was being undermined and that it appeared that you had more authority on the subject than me. Why did you interrupt me?”

Certainly, the other person cannot dispute your feelings. At the same time, they can explain their actions. You are now in a position to discuss their motivation while they are in a position to better understand your experience. In the example above, the colleague might have interrupted in order to win the attention of the managers. She also might have interrupted because the presentation wasn’t going well and was reflecting poorly on her friend – she wanted to protect his reputation. In either case, he is justified in feeling bad. However, he might not be justified in assuming that she had bad intentions…moreover, it might not be productive to so.