by Paul Casey

Tilting Like a Pinball Machine?

In a recent trip to Portland, my son took me to a downtown vintage arcade that carried all the token-operated games from 80’s. There was also a loft that had dozens of pinball machines–more my style. While I played, I was reminded not to shake the table too much, which, as you know, leads to a shutdown called Tilt, a mechanism built into the machine to avoid abuse of it by a player. Here’s the relationship metaphor: People around you will go into Tilt mode if you verbally shut them down.  Our words and tone of voice are powerful, and an attacking/accusing approach caused by the Tilt affect.

It’s probably happened to you: You are in an escalating conflict conversation, and someone you love/work with brings out a verbal dagger and stabs you with blame and its condescending attitude. Based on your personality/conflict style and your relationship with that person, you either lash back or go into Tilt and go quiet, receiving the destructive blow to your emotions. And all productive problem-solving–and all relationship–stops at that moment. Game over.

So, why would we want to produce the Tilt affect in others?

When you feel yourself getting riled up and pulled toward lowering the boom:

  1. Gain control of your emotions! Nothing good is going to happen when you are “seeing red.” Better to take a timeout to settle down and think through how to best approach the person.
  2. Ask yourself what outcome you are seeking long-term. What do you want to be different? How can you best bring up the situation in the more palatable way for the receiver to take it in, see your point of view, and cooperatively want to solve it with you?
  3. Try to soften your approach to avoid Tilt. Don’t come on strong and end the crucial conversation before it even starts.  Invite them to dialogue with you. Look at it as two people mutually finding a solution. If the one with the issue bails, that goal is blocked.
  4. As tensions rise, slow it down. Re-commit to the common outcome you both want. Express how much you value them. People who don’t feel appreciation/worth from you tend to flare up more quickly.
  5. End the interaction with a summary of what was decided. Just like the pinball machine racks up the point total at game’s end, assure clarity from both perspectives on the potentially more successful path forward.

Protect the relationship by handling conflict conversations without Tilting, and you and those you care about will continue Growing Forward.

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