QUESTION:

“How should you best handle people who are sensitive or easily triggered?”

GUIDANCE:

  • Remember, first of all, that if someone is triggered, it’s for a reason. You may not understand personally, but you must start from a place of acknowledging that what the person feels is real—and then seek to understand it.

  • When addressing sensitive people’s concerns, you must start from a place of not taking things personal yourself. If you cannot do this, you should start this self-work simultaneously. (Review the lessons on Intellectual Humility in particular to work on this.)

  • Often people who are triggered will deal with the emotions that result by speaking or behaving in ways that trigger others. This is human nature. It’s not a good person / bad person thing. So be patient and compassionate, even if what you encounter seems hypocritical.

  • Remember: handling triggers, offense, and slights is a two-way street. Both parties must swallow some pride. Being the first to show some benefit of doubt is a good way to help the other person eventually do the same.

    • When we are given feedback that we or someone on our team has said something insensitive, it’s our first job to respond with compassion and seek to understand—not to be defensive.

    • When we are giving feedback, it’s our job to do so in a way that allows the other person to change without feeling like a terrible person. Deliver feedback from a place of trusting someone’s intentions—even if the best you can do is admit you’d like to trust their intentions.

    • Remember that nobody (nobody mortal, that is) is all-knowing, and few people are going to be perfect at either of the above two things without a little practice. Let yourself and others off the hook for saying things that you don’t realize are painful or triggering—but then seek to understand and seek to change your behavior so you can minimize harm.