For many people, life is like a snowball. On a particularly good day, everything may go your way and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But on a bad day, unfortunate events can likewise snowball, increasing their negative effect exponentially.
For example, imagine how each of these events would make you feel if they happened to you first thing in the morning.
• You encounter construction on the way to work.
• Your alarm clock doesn’t go off and you wake up late.
• You are out of coffee.
• The cafeteria line is very long.
Each of those things is potentially responsible for creating a crummy morning. Now, imagine this scenario:
You wake up and realize your alarm clock hasn’t gone off and you’re already late. You get up and go to turn the coffee pot on, but you realize that there is no coffee left in your house. Then, you shower and head out the door – only to encounter construction and massive traffic back-ups on the way to work. Now you’re 15 minutes late instead of five. You get to work and head to the cafeteria for some much-needed coffee, but the line stretches out the door.
With the addition of each event, your morning just gets worse and worse. For most people, this is a recipe for disaster – the first person that crosses them is likely to get an earful!
Successful communicators are excellent at identifying precipitating factors and adjusting their approach before the communication starts, or during it. Understanding the power of precipitating factors can also help you de-personalize negative comments. This does not mean that someone having a bad day gets to dump on everyone around them; it does mean, however, that the person being dumped on can take it less personally and help the other person work through their problems.