Early in our lives, we responded to conflict and anxiety with the instinctive “flight or fight” response. As we grew up, we found a third path. We learned to handle internal or external conflict constructively, to hold off instinctive reactions, and to find more positive ways to solve problems. We found it beneficial to withdraw from heated situations long enough to cool down or change, to think about things and reflect on our own feelings, and to return ready to work through the tension. When we discovered that others had as much difficulty dealing with tension as we did, we became more sensitive to their inability to cope under certain circumstances. We pulled back to give them room to regain their equilibrium. We learned the advantages of tactically withdrawing when others needed time to think, sort out their options, or reconsider the arbitrary nature of their positions. We found that being patient and backing off was a strength, not a weakness.
People perform best a moderate stress. An influence situation that has little tension in it for you or the person you want to influence will not yield very good results. However, if stress is too high, you or that person will be too preoccupied with your own feelings to have a constructive interaction. It is not necessary to persevere against all odds. The skillful influencer paces the interaction and manages tension positively by using the influence action of disengaging.
Disengaging encourages the person you are trying to influence to maintain a constructive pace. It allows both parties to think and reflect, to express concerns about working style and process, and to proceed at a pace that is productive for both of you. So how do you disengage effectively? You can postpone the conversation, give and get feedback, change the subject, or take a break. The most important aspect is that whatever action you choose, you refrain from avoiding and declare your full intention to reengage. This type of Moving Away energy helps both parties plan more constructive behavior. Remember, the other person has the same need you do to manage tension and stress.