We all had that one heated conversation caused by a misunderstanding or a difference of views. Disagreements are a regular occurrence in the workplace. It is expected even because the workplace is an environment where individuals from mixed backgrounds work together to achieve a common goal.
Due to their diverse backgrounds, everyone’s approach to a problem will be different. This diversity usually leads to disagreements that often escalate. For many people, the automatic response to a heated retort is to reply aggressively, but that only increases the aggression and makes everyone lose sight of the goal.
So, how does one handle heated disagreements and ensure that the goal of the conversation is achieved? How can we promote civil discourse even when our opinions greatly differ? You can suggest both parties apologize or take some minutes to calm down. Still, the situation is bound to repeat if proper discourse guidelines are not set.
Before any conversation starts, the team leader should remind everyone that contributions should be kept civil, which means personal attacks and insulting language are not allowed. Team members should be reminded that another person not sharing their view is not an attack on them, and they shouldn’t lose sight of the goal, which is the growth of the company.
It would be best if the organization operates an inclusive and diverse work environment because it will get the team to listen more and focus on achieving organizational objectives. You won’t worry about how to create equity in the workplace if company policies and values recognize fairness and accommodate alternate opinions.
Despite the best company policies, disagreements often get heated. If you find yourself in a heated disagreement, your best approach should be to;
1. Calm Yourself First
You can’t make the situation calm if you lose your cool. First of all, regulate yourself and tone down your emotions. Once you get out of your head and listen to the other person, you handle the situation better. When you argue while you are angry or another person is annoyed, the conflict will not settle.
It is the initial step to control the situation. High emotions often mess up the brain.
2. Be a Good Listener
We often pick sides during disagreements and formulate a litany of responses while the speaker is talking. We miss important aspects of the speakers’ speech and attack what we think we heard. This misunderstanding only increases the rift and worsens the situation, with everyone feeling right.
To de-escalate this, you need to understand that your colleagues’ emotional outbursts might result from the unfairness they have had to endure. Contradicting or even disagreeing with them might make them feel invalidated and unappreciated.
Since our goal is to de-escalate the situation, you must truly listen to their complaints and understand their perspective. This way, they’ll feel heard and understood. Since the underlying feeling of being unappreciated has been tackled, they’ll feel relaxed and more attuned to having a more civilized discourse.
3. Do not React, Respond
Objectivity and fact are often secondary considerations in heated arguments. Trying to reason with the person yelling wouldn’t produce any positive results. The trick to resolving the conflict is to tackle the underlying problem. This involves asking strategic questions that encourage a diverse array of answers. The response will reveal what is fueling the anger or frustration.
However, ascertaining the crux of the problem is only one step. Finding a solution that works for everybody is the main step in reducing tension. If you’re in a heated confrontation with a coworker, signaling that you’re willing to listen to their concerns and tackle the problem can ease the hostility.
4. Be Cautious About Body Language
Body language is often overlooked, but it contributes to the duration or intensity of the disagreements. Watch your body language when in an intense disagreement because the speaker might view some actions as aggressive.
Standing too close to the speaker will make them feel threatened or cornered, and the most common response is to lash out. Although intense arguments can be off-putting, understanding the need not to point at the person, invade their personal space, or clench your fists will help to de-escalate the situation.
Additionally, try not to adopt threatening or aggressive postures like gritted teeth or intimidating stares. You might respond correctly, but your body language might be at odds with your words. To correct this, open your arms, sit erect, and speak in your normal tone.
Although it’s advisable to avoid adopting aggressive postures, adopting defensive postures is also unwise. The goal is to appear neutral and show respect even with body gestures.
5. Don’t Try To Solve The Matter (Yet)
We can not think straight when we are high on emotions.
In a conflict or fight, there is a high chance you lose your cognitive ability and can not think of a productive solution to the problem. Turning on the problem-solving mindset (at this point) can make the situation worse. It is better to tone down the heated argument first and then use your critical thinking abilities to fix the conflict.
Here are some tips on how to effectively take a break during an argument:
- Communicate your intentions: Before you take a break, it’s important to let the other person know that you need some time to step back from the argument. This helps to prevent misunderstandings and ensures that the other person knows you’re not walking away from the situation.
- Find a quiet place: Find a place where you can be alone and calm. This could be a room in your home or even a quiet park.
- Focus on your breathing: Take slow, deep breaths and focus on each inhale and exhale. This can help you to calm down and regain your composure.
- Reframe the situation: During your break, try to reframe the argument in a positive way. Focus on the positive aspects of the situation and try to find common ground with the other person.
By stepping back and regaining your composure, you’re able to approach the situation with a clearer mind and find a resolution that works for both parties.
6. Make a Personal Connection
People listen more closely if you talk to them directly by taking their names. Just asking their name will make them realize that you care for them and you are trying to understand their emotional outbursts. It will create a sympathetic and personal vibe in the conversation.
You can then make efforts to find the best possible situation for the matter.
7. Acknowledge Wrongs
Suppose a colleague feels they’re being treated unfairly or disrespected; instead of dismissing their claims, you should check to see if their claims are valid and promptly apologize.
Acknowledging Wrongs Involves:
- Understanding how they feel.
- Recognizing their feelings and perspectives.
- Responding in a calm tone.
- Apologizing shows strength and involves admittance of wrong and the word ‘sorry.’
8. Solve The Issue (Now)
Conflict happens. There is no need to drag the issue and make the fight intense. Identify the core of the problem, why all the fuss has begun, and who is responsible for the mistake or lacking (if there is any), and then try to resolve the matter rather than dragging it.
Maybe someone misunderstood you, or you may have done something hurtful to someone; whatever the reason is, calm things down with a problem-solving mindset.
9. Call For Help If Needed
Sometimes after taking all the steps to resolve the issue and de-escalate the situation, conflict does not get under control.
If you see that argument is heating up and getting out of your hands, call for help immediately. Do not wait for the other person to get more enraged and harm you – in any form. If you feel threatened or endangered, leave the place or call someone to help you.
With the increasing political and social issues polarizing society, heated disagreements will only increase. There are always people whose worldviews, realities, and approaches to work problems do not align with yours, and involving them in arguments, especially at work, can get heated.
However, by applying the tips listed above and being willing to understand the other’s position, intense disagreements can be abated.