With all due respect to my dog, Georgie, whom I love dearly, the canine behavioral model (as in Pavlov’s) is not one that serves in-house designers well – yet we engage in it every day.
Like the experiment where dogs were trained to respond to a stimulus to such a degree that they reacted to a trigger without the resulting reward or consequence, we frequently anticipate situations based on past experience when it comes to dealing with clients managers or co-workers.
Plenty of us have had less than enjoyable past interactions with clients – so much so that we often become conditioned to expect poor behavior from our clients even before it occurs. This can occur even with new clients about whom we know next to nothing. We then walk into meetings with a chip on our shoulder, hearing everything they say through a anticipatory filter that only bad things will happen. There’s not much good that will come out of this set up and the relationship becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A better approach may be to first clear our collective heads and attempt to start from a less biased mindset. Then, even if bad things start to occur, there’s an opportunity to take responsibility for it. By that I mean that if we react as we have in the past we’ll get more of those past experiences. But if we alter our behavior there is a chance that the conversation, meeting, relationship etc. will go down a different path. This may mean being more understanding of the client’s, co-worker’s, manager’s position or it may mean being more assertive and even escalating the problem.
The trick of course is deciding what that new behavior should be. The easiest rule of thumb to follow is to determine if all parties (including you) are being treated with respect and everyone is acting in each others’ and the company’s best interests.