The need to walk on eggshells around someone feels lousy! Whether it’s at the office or at home, the feeling of being on edge or needing to be extremely cautious with someone creates distance, tension and negatively impacts our state of mind as well as our behavior.

Perhaps you fear someone’s negative reaction because the person is too sensitive to handle something — they may be easily offended or take things personally. Maybe the person tends to react or even explode. Or, someone may actually refuse to acknowledge or speak to you.

Here are a few tips to help diffuse, or deal with, an “eggshell” situation.


About eggshells

The eggshells are not about you! A person’s unpredictable or withholding behavior can create anxiety and tension. It is important not to take it personally because you cannot be responsible for another person’s behavior – only for your own. Do not allow someone to manipulate or intimidate you with a negative attitude or communication style.

Take a deep breath

Give yourself time to think about what you want to have happen. Do not react. Imagine the worst thing that could happen if you address the person rather than avoid them. Understand that you give away your own power when you avoid dealing with someone.  Act in your own best interests and say what is true for you.

Take the initiative

Engage with the person, if possible. You may make an observation about the behavior and then comment about the situation (“It seems that …, “I wonder if …, “I notice that …”). Take care not to make assumptions or judgments about the other person. Simply say something true about how the behavior impacts you (“I am confused about …,” “I was disappointed that …,” “I was aggravated when …”).

Listen to understand

After you initiate communication, give the person an opportunity to respond without interruption. Acknowledge their perspective and show respect — you don’t have to like it or agree. Connection and trust develop when understanding is authentic. Genuine civility and connection will form the basis for moving forward constructively.

Identify an outcome

If you wish to preserve the relationship or resolve an issue, allow the person to save face. If you need to prove that you are right, then you will probably clash. If this is a recurring pattern of behavior with someone, it may require a tough talk in order to understand and deal with the real issue or to change the dynamic. Problems can be resolved when those involved participate with good will.

Build on success

Keep your own communication message clear and clean — no attitude, blaming or attacking. Speak only for yourself so that your meaning is understood. While you cannot change another person, you can regulate your own behavior. Go first! Be part of the solution. Acknowledge and show appreciation for any constructive effort and positive change.