Exploders make up the second category of difficult people; but they are totally opposite from the Snipers we looked at before. Unlike the Sniper, who hides in the surroundings, the Exploder is totally in your face.
So why is it that somebody, for no apparent reason, will light up the meeting room in a fiery rage while we are presenting or during negotiations?
There are numerous possible answers, but the most common are fear or anger. The person may fear that our ideas will usurp his or her plans if they were to be implemented. If we are right, where might that leave the Exploder?
The fear could be an instinctive response to a challenge. Simply stated, some people are just inclined to that temperament.
Anger can emerge from territorialism. Perhaps our initiative treads into what someone considers his or her territory and we are becoming an unwelcome intruder. Perhaps this person is insulted that we didn’t consult with him/her first.
Whatever the reason, Exploders expect us to wilt under the firestorm of their rage, or to at least back off somewhat in order to accommodate or please.
It’s important to remember that most Exploders explode because it has worked for them before. They also depend upon the element of surprise.
So the first rule for us in dealing with an Exploder is “Don’t’ Panic”. We need to take a second or two to regain our internal composure.
Rule number two… Don’t defend ourselves.
That is what the Exploder (and likely everyone else in the room) is expecting. Chances are that part of the tirade against us will include a few personal attacks such as “Didn’t you have the sense to think about…?” or “what kind of idiot would assume…?”
Part of the explosion is a performance. Exploders are aware they have to sufficiently justify their behavior; and one good way is belittling us.
OK, great. We are not panicking and we are not defending. But we have this disturbance going on in the middle of our presentation. Now what?
Let Exploders run on until they run down. When our Exploder finally runs out of steam a mild mannered question back might be “Is there anything else?”
Exploders will not have the energy or the wherewithal to repeat that kind of Academy performance. Nor are they likely to persist with personal insults or zingers, for fear of being seen by others as a bully or troublemaker.
Their only option is to calm down and focus on the points of their contention. Chances are they are not nearly as prepared as we are and will soon be desperately looking for a way off center stage.
We don’t retaliate, we don’t get redirected and we don’t try to appease.
We remain pleasant. Once the Exploder has calmed down we will synthesize the key points of the Exploder’s tirade and restate. Typical reframing.
We address anything in the Exploder’s tirade that might be a question we’d have to answer anyway.
We can then absorb the Exploders arguments into our own. “He brought up a very important concern that I will be addressing momentarily.” “It would seem from what she just stated that we envision similar goals, but as yet differ on how best to achieve them.”
We are effectively making the Exploder’s problem a group problem (or a group challenge), inviting further feedback and suggestions at the appropriate time; and that is definitely not what the Exploder wants.