August 20th, 2009
Congressman Barney Frank (Mass) became a bit of a celebrity this week by answering what many would consider an inappropriate question with an attack back: “Mam, what planet do you spend most of your time on?”
While it made for an entertaining news clip, it was not the correct way to handle this lady. He followed it up by saying “Having a conversation with you is like having a conversation with the dining room table, and I have no interest.” Again, he blew it. He looks immature, irresponsible and completely unprofessional.
It is tempting to resort to sarcastic low blows, to embarrass or fight back, but in a professional environment, you risk your own reputation and credibility by doing so. If you watch the above clip, he looks like the difficult person at the end of it, and I almost felt sorry for the woman.
Don’t do this regardless of how tempting it is.
Mr. Frank should have taken the “camouflage” technique to deal with this woman. To camouflage means to disguise the question/statement. I describe it as being deliberately naive when responding to it.
What should have happened:
Lady: “Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy…”
Mr. Frank: “I support this policy because….”
He should have deliberately left out the Nazi comment and continued.
This way the situation would not have escalated the way it did.
If we want to “take the high road” and we want to appear as the professional in any situation, we have to strategize our approach. Refuse to be baited by your difficult person, or difficult situations.
I bet that later that evening Mr. Frank regretted how he handled this woman. I also bet that if he had used the camouflage technique he would have been proud of himself.