As new problems emerge, we have to be focused enough not to get sidetracked. We can t let every breeze blow us in a different direction. By the same token, we have to be flexible enough to step away from the current issue and deal with the new problems on the spot if necessary.
When a brand-new problem with a life of its own comes up in the middle of a crucial confrontation, we have to decide. Do we step away from the current problem ( putting a bookmark in place so that we can get back to it later) and address the new problem? Or do we stay the course? This takes us back to the issue we addressed in Chapter 1: What is the right crucial confrontation? Now we re introducing the idea that the right confrontation can change before your eyes.
The answer to this new if question is simple. If the new, emergent problem is more serious, time-sensitive, or emotional than the original one or if it s important to the other person, you have to deal with it right there, on the spot. You can t allow the new and more important issue to be at the mercy of the original problem.
For example, you can t have your daughter lying to you. Lying is worse than missing practice. You can t allow an employee to become insubordinate. If you don t say something right away, you undermine your credibility. You can t allow a person to fume and boil and pretend nothing is happening. It ll only get worse.
The good news is that if you choose to move to the new and emergent topic, all the skills we ve looked at so far are applicable . Of course, if you decide to deal with the new problem, you need to do so in a focused way. Don t be tricked into getting sidetracked and don t drift aimlessly from topic to topic. Carefully transition when you change your focus. In short, as new and emergent problems surface, do the following:
Note new problems
Select the right problem: the original problem, the new one, or both
Resolve the new problem and return to the original issue
Deal with problems one at a time
Consciously choose to deal with new issues, don't allow them to be forced upon you