Have you been in this type of heated exchange… You find yourself in an argument with another person in regard to a project at work, or tangling with someone in a debate about your political opinions, or battling on a topic you just happen to be passionate about. If so, you might want to dominate the other person because you want to win the fight. And you become defensive and will do whatever you can to prevail at all costs. Wow! The temperature is rising….and quickly…
If you have either been involved in something like this, or perhaps you might have seen an encounter like this take place, then you probably understand the feelings, emotion and zeal involved. You would understand the anger and potential fury brought about by such an agitating battle. In the end, either you may have dominated the other person or they may have dominated you.
Either way, you are still faced with these questions about the episode:
- Did you find it productive?
- Did it help settle your differences?
- Did anything constructive come of the situation?
And your probable answer: Probably not.
So what can you do in the heat of the moment to change this type of situation from a heated battle into a constructive exchange? Here are five steps to help:
Step 1: (Put on the brakes)
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19
Step 2: (Control your emotion)
- Assess the situation for content and emotion.
- Continue to breathe and relax.
- You are the only one who can control how you are feeling, don’t allow yourself to feel threatened or challenged.
“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” – William Ernest Henley
Step 3: (Body language)
- Put your hands in your pockets to avoid pointing fingers, raising fists, and keeping the overall energy level down.
- Maintain eye contact, but not with a blank stare.
- Don’t roll your eyes.
- Keep your jaw unclenched.
- Breathe as you would normally.
- Avoid mumbling under your breath.
- Uncross your arms.
- Make kind gestures to non-verbally communicate you are listening (head nod, eye brow raise).
Step 4: (Listening with care)
- Bite your tongue and don’t butt in with presumptions.
- Respectfully listen to what the other person is saying without interruption.
- Focus on content and the non-verbal messages including the emotional tone they are using.
- Avoid distractions.
- Reflect what they are saying in your own words (aka active listening) using phrases like, “It sounds like you mean…,” “So you are saying…,” “In other words….”
- Clarify what they are saying by asking non-threatening questions.
- Check to ensure the message is accurate getting their buy-in with a “yes.”
Step 5: (Respond gently)
- Think before you speak.
- Speak gently keeping the energy level low.
- Speak slowly; talking fast in an argument, even though we often do it without realizing it, can lead to saying something you might regret later.
- Avoid most conjunctive adverbs (but, however, furthermore, besides, etc.) these tend to put others in a defensive position.
- Review the situation without rehashing the argument.
- Resolve the situation coming to a compromise with the other party involved.
Put these ideas to practice instead of blowing up during your next confrontation. I think you will see how the tides turn a confrontation into a genuine exchange.
Tell us about a situation you have dealt with.
What are some other thoughts we may find useful?
Jason Christensen is National Accounts Manager for The Stanley Works.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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