How do you make uncomfortable situations comfortable?

How do you make uncomfortable situations comfortable

We all must deal with people and stressful situations at work, home, and life. So, the question arises, how do you make uncomfortable situations comfortable. There is no one right answer for every situation, but there is a right answer on how to proactively address this question with others that you must or need to interact with going forward. The commentary that follows stems from research on this topic that I now offer as a keynote presentation. The following are a few tidbits right on point


Learning collaboration early


I first learned about collaboration shortly after I was born when my twin brother, Mark, entered the world, and I joined my other four siblings. Being the fourth and fifth children there are not a lot of pictures, but I want to tell you about one. We were about 2 years old and were posed in a row boat pointed out into a lake with each one of us looking at the camera and the back of the row boat with our hands on the oars as if we are rowing the boat together.  This was a posed picture, but we were rowing the boat so to speak and collaborating. If we could find a way to collaborate, great.

If we could not find a way to collaborate our mother could.

For example, if we were fighting over a ball, our mom would ask us to work it out or she would simply take the ball away. It did not take us long to determine a better way for us to work it out. This set the stage to look for ways to collaborate with each other and expand the concept to others.


The Collaboration Effect®


After law school training on mediation over 20 years ago and having conducted over 2,500 mediations, negotiations, and facilitations over my career the result is a book entitled “The Collaboration Effect”.  The collaboration effect based on neuroscience, research, and experience in management with up to 1,200 employees is remarkably simple at its core.

The collaboration effect is all about connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously to build bridges and negotiate closure.

Isn’t that what you want? To overcome conflict, enhance collaboration, be more productive, more profitable, and have more pleasure. Digging a little deeper here is an introduction to each of the three areas followed by a real-world story to bring this home for you.


Connecting relationships


Connecting relationships is about being authentic and actively working to build a positive relationship. Know yourself. Understand yourself with your interests, strengths, needs, biases, and wants. If you are reaching out to someone you do not know research them on the internet using Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others. Network with others at work or in your broader network to learn all you can about the other person. Look for things that you may have in common or can talk about on a personal level. Consider geography, their history, education, hobbies, interests, family, faith, friends, or other ways to connect. Discover common interests so that when you meet you could mention an area of interest to them.

The point is to build an authentic connecting relationship.

If you are already in conflict with someone, it may mean you take the initiative and apologize. I am suggesting this whether you need to or not. It takes a big person to do this. Whether you are right or wrong you are trying to bring the relationship back to a neutral level. Apologize first apologize for the act. Indicate you will not do it in the future. Ask what you can do to make it right.

You may need to forgive. When you forgive it is not for the other person, it is for you to be able to move on after granting forgiveness. Be open to your own self growth and expanding emotional intelligence.


Listening actively


Listening actively is hard, especially with someone you are in conflict with, or if you have a lot you want to say. However, you must listen actively if you want to make an uncomfortable situation comfortable.

To listen actively you need to listen with 100% attention, check for understanding, and use phrases that help the other party expound on their point of view even if you disagree.

Did I tell you this was going to be hard? Use phrases like:

  • Tell me more.
  • Could you please elaborate on that.
  • Before I respond to your question, let me pause and ask you some questions on what you just said.

Apply the acronym PASSED. That is


Ask open ended questions


Suspend judgment (did I tell you this was going to be hard?)


Do not offer advice (did I tell you this was going to be hard?)

I know you have a lot you want to say, especially if you know a lot. Forget what you know. Be there to listen.


Educate judiciously


Be concise. Be honest with an attitude to help. Demonstrate your expertise humbly. Educate the other party the way they want to be educated. About seventy percent of people are visual learners. Visual learners remember a lot more if they can visualize what you are talking about.

Visualize the future sharing your perspective but applying what you learned from listening actively.

Can you offer story to your commentary to help the other party visualize what you are trying to say.

In his book, The Asking Formula, John Baker the former CEO of Shearson American Express for 10 years very simply states that you

  • Need to know what you want.
  • Ask for it.
  • Have three reasons why it is beneficial to them

Then listen to them and answer their questions. I have tried this for over two years having heard him speak and read his book. It is amazing how well this works. You have so much you want to say but educating the other party with what they want to know addresses their concerns the way they want them addressed.


A short story


After speaking in a corporate setting, a woman that we will call Mary called me and told me this brief story. A coworker of hers we will call Pat in procurement had a bad attitude and no one wanted to work with Pat. Mary was asked to expedite something through procurement that day. Mary dreaded going to see Pat. Instead of asking Pat to expedite this item with an expectation of a hostile reaction, Mary approached Pat looked in her cube, saw pictures of some little boys and girls and asked Pat if those were her grandchildren. Pat said they were. Mary asked about each one and Pat’s face lit up as she told Mary about her grandchildren. Then after a few minutes Pat, asked Mary what she needed. Mary apologized for this rush item and wondered if there was any way Pat could expedite this today. Pat looked at the documents and indicated that yes, she could. Pat asked Mary to come back in a couple of hours and she would have it for her. Mary could not believe her good fortune, but having heard the presentation, she tried connecting and listening with a difficult person and it worked for her. Mary called me and shared this story with me that I am sharing with you. Could this work for you?


What can you conclude?


This is a short introduction to The Collaboration Effect and how it works. Applying the process enhances relationships, resources, and revenues. Relationships are enhanced because you paid attention, you cared, and you were there to make a positive difference. Resources are enhanced, because time is not lost addressing the negative worry, stress, and delays associated having to work in a dysfunctional environment with others. Results including revenues, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction are all improved including with all stakeholders. Check out the book, The Collaboration Effect for yourself of or to give to others, my website blog with twenty-four subtopics to help you, videos and more. It is my pleasure to be here to help you and others make your uncomfortable situations comfortable.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]