Turning a Potential Argument Into a Discussion: 5 Steps You Can Take

Stay steady and guide the conflict through rough waters


It’s a natural reaction: An angry co-worker blames you for something, and your knee-jerk response is to get defensive and fight back.

Although you’re no doubt justified, the “conversation” can turn ugly fast – not to mention the damage this will do to the working relationship between the two of you.

Here are some steps from Susan Shearhouse’s “Conflict 101” for turning a potential argument into a discussion.

The end goal: Resolving the issue in a calm, professional manner that will keep your working relationship intact.

Let them blow off steam

When someone comes at you confrontationally, they need to let off steam and vent.

Susan warns it’s extremely difficult to listen to someone who’s angry at you, “But when you can do it, the results are stunning.”

Here’s how to do it: Create a mental image of yourself standing outside the situation, looking at the angry co-worker through a window.

As an observer, you now can listen without reacting or passing judgement.

Try to understand

They may be dead wrong about the situation, but they’re entitled to have their own perspective.

Ask a question to make sure you understand how they feel: “This had to be really frustrating for you – is that how you feel?”

Acknowledging their feelings will go a long way in resolving the matter.

Set ground rules

They may be angry, but that doesn’t give them the right to yell at you.

Propose boundaries, such as, “When you yell, I can’t hear what you’re saying.  So let’s agree to talk to each other respectfully, OK?”

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