One of the decisions that people need to make when communicating is at what level of escalation to begin the conversation.

If you have the CEO or top official initially address the issue, there isn’t much room for an appeal or further consideration. But if you begin the negotiation or dialogue with a middle manager, they can always turn to the director and/or vice president if the heat needs to be turned up or lowered. Determining who should respond is a strategic decision that may or may not limit your options.

The same is true about where you begin with what you say. If your opening salvo is essentially the equivalent of “we’re going to sue you,” it’s hard to back away from that and preserve the relationship. If you communicate your point with a softer opening (such as Netflix’s line to a copyright transgressor: “Don’t make us call your mom.”) there is latitude to escalate the intensity should circumstances warrant.

Your emotions may make you feel as if you want to charge into the communication but your pen or keyboard should resist the temptation and begin with as little escalation as has the potential to be effective.

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