We can’t change others, so we need a peaceful way to safety leave the hostility treadmill and bring others with us.
This powerful method is called “The Three A’s” or AAA-ENDS.
It works even it you are the only person following it.
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.” -Mahatma Gandhi
When you feel tension in a conversation, either in you or in them, that’s your signal! Calm both hearts and find common ground using AAA-ENDS:
The AAA-ENDS is like three doors (Accept, Align Heart, Align Mind) leading into a “room of opportunity” (Ask) with a safety net (ENDS) under everything.
ALL the doors need to be open together, or you can’t enter or stay in that room. OPEN the closed doors and the discussion suddenly becomes pleasant. Use the safety net only when the doors slam shut.
Each door—and the room—requires you to:
The three doors may be opened in any order. Do what feels most comfortable.
People do things for good reasons. —Kevin Crenshaw
Seek first to understand. —Stephen R. Covey
You now ACCEPT their reasons without judgment, whether or not you agree. The first door is now open.
YOUR heart is now at peace.
You can’t reach the mind until you calm the heart. —Kevin Crenshaw
They now feel understood LOGICALLY, which starts to calm their heart. The second door is now open.
They now feel understood EMOTIONALLY. Some people will understand their own emotions for the first time because you labelled them without judgement. This de-escalates and finishes calming their heart, usually in 90 seconds or less! The third door is now open.
THEIR heart is now at peace.
When ALL THREE doors are open, proceed immediately into the room of opportunity.
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. —Helen Keller
This is where you explain your side, WHILE still respecting and aligning with their thoughts and feelings. Keep all three doors open at all times! If any door starts to close, immediately open it up again as described above. When they start to understand your side:
You are now choosing a next step to find common ground and a mutually acceptable solution together.
Everyone has the right to feel safe. —Kevin Crenshaw
If the conversation becomes abusive and is escalating out of control, set respectful boundaries using these “nuclear options.” Use as a last resort because they may force the conversation to end.
Try these in order. They increase in severity to keep you safe.
Addressing boss hostility head-on produces the best results long-term, according to this study.
Naming is an escalation that keeps you safe from abuse but will probably escalate and end the conversation. Naming is powerful because it’s a form of containment. There’s a terrifying unseen monster in the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet, but the fear subsides when a ray gun gives it shape. Shining a bright light on verbal or emotional violence creates safety for you and others because you see it for what it is.
You already named the severe incivility/abuse. You choose to stay present to give them more time to calm down.
“Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.” —Max Lucado
AAA is similar to the three steps of Verbal Aikido, but you can start using it instantly because it’s simple. And when AAA fails, the final (ENDS) steps protect you from the impact of verbal or emotional abuse.
AAA-ENDS works because:
Note: If you are ever in physical danger, leave immediately.
AAA-ENDS is only for verbally- and emotionally-charged conversations.
“Who is this guy that I just sat on the phone with for an hour, and who supported me so much I never stopped smiling and WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY BOSS?!?!? 🙂 🙂 🙂 :)” – Worker/Manager
“This is incredible. I just had a conversation with [worker] that never would have gone this well before. I just need to remember to not jump in and ask for things until I’ve calmed his heart. In the long run, it was faster than the old way because I didn’t need to force him to comply!” – Director
Neverboss: Great Leadership by Letting Go, 2nd Ed. The Rapid Blueprint for Empowering Leadership by Kevin Crenshaw and Laura Shane Crenshaw. Rapid empowerment for entire organizations, and see especially the chapter on Tools of Engagement (verbal empowerment, universal safety, Open Floor Policy).
De-escalate: How to Calm an Angry Person in 90 Seconds or Less by Douglas Noll. Great resource on verbal de-escalation.
Never Split The Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended On It by Christopher Voss. Brilliant work on tactical empathy.
Talk directly with Kevin Crenshaw, CEO of Neverboss, Empowering Leadership Champion and Instant COO.