I was given a list of Do's and Don'ts of interacting with people who have dementia. I've modified this list only slightly to guide you in safely interacting with corporate executives.
Do--Hold their hand. [Most executives want to shake your hand when you enter their office. I have found that it is best to allow them to hold your hand as long as they see fit. Extended handholding is non-verbal communication of endearment.]
Do--Keep your sense of humor. [Humor is critical with high-level corporate executives. Laugh at their cue, even if you aren't quite sure what you are laughing at. Otherwise, they have a tendency of feeling alienated and can turn hostile. Likewise, if you find yourself laughing and they are not, curtail laughing or like the contrary, they have a tendency of feeling alienated and can turn hostile.]
Do--Keep things simple. [High-level executives are easily overwhelmed, which can generate a feeling of alienation, which can facilitate them turning hostile.]
Do--Give them simple easy tasks or have them focus on entertainment such as television. [It is best to keep high-level executives busy with unimportant activities. Lack of activities has a tendency to make them feel "out-of-the-loop." This is dangerous. They will insert themselves into processes that were working fine without them. If possible, have a TV installed in their office and show them financial programs. They are easily distracted by dollar signs. Warning: dollar signs in red have been proven to generate hostility among high-level corporate executives.]
Do--Remain calm. [These executives have an uncanny ability to sense nervousness, which puts them ill-at-ease, which can facilitate them turning hostile.]
Don't--Give them choices. [High-level executives are easily overwhelmed, which can generate a feeling of alienation, which can facilitate them turning hostile. Instead, present evidence of a "great opportunity" and allow them come up with a grand idea for you to facilitate. Warning: this is inviting prolonged conversations with them about their grand idea.]
Don'--Get irritated by them asking a question repeatedly. [Refer to keep your sense of humor above.]
Don't--Tell them what they "should" do. [High-level executives are extremely sensitive to their autonomy and often automatically resist an underling or lesser "instructing" them, which can generate a feeling of alienation, which can facilitate them turning hostile to reinforce their sense of power.]
Don't--Expect them to do what they say they are going to do. [Expectations are the root of disappointment. If you can curb your expectations, your frequency of disappointment will diminish.]
Don't--Expect what they tell you to be accurate. [Treating what they say as accurate can only lead to actions based on fallacy and at the end of the day you will look foolish because they will "not recall" telling that "fact" to you.]
Don't--Expect them to do what they say they will do. [See above. If this isn't self-apparent by now, stop reading this email and get back to work.]
There were more on the list, which were equally appropriate. The only one that didn't seem to fit was: Do--Hug them. My experience is that hugs can make them feel ill-at-ease.
By Howard Campbell