Simple ways to diffuse a heated disagreement at work

Harvard Business Review suggests that you approach a conflict by validating the other person's perspective. You should try to accept the following: 1) it's beneficial to hear different perspectives because it allows the group to think about an issue from different angles, and 2) the coworker you are arguing with is adding to the conversation by giving a unique point of view. This may be hard to do especially if you disagree so heartily with someone.  But the minute you think about the conflict in a productive way and see your coworker as worthy, the nature of the conflict will immediately change for the better. The tone will improve and you can get back to focusing on ideas and issues instead of the person saying them. Here are some suggestions of words to use next time you have a conflict that needs diffusing:  

  • "I think this is a really important issue that we should discuss openly."
  • "Thanks for bringing up this issue/idea. I'm not sure I'm comfortable where we're heading so maybe we can talk it through as a team."
  • "I think it took guts to put that on the table and I respect that."
  • "You are coming at this from a very different perspective than I am so I can see why we see it differently."
  • "The way you are looking at this is _________ . But I think differently because _______ ."
  • "What I heard you say is ____; is that right?  Now I want you to understand my viewpoint so we can work towards a solution or compromise."

Make sure your words and body language show that you value the conflict and the person involved and are really trying to understand them.  You don't have to agree with them, but you do have to listen and respond in a respectful manner.  You can reduce defensiveness and the intensity of a disagreement by keeping these things in mind.  Try it out on you next argument.

 

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