Disagreements happen. They are an unavoidable part of our lives. At work we may have to evaluate the work of our fellow employees, offer different ways of doing things, or we may need to stand up for our ideas and opinions. At home we negotiate with our spouses and deal with sometimes obnoxious strangers.
Some people dread confrontations like these. When they are faced with a possible conflict they keep silent in order to keep the peace but inside they become angry at themselves for keeping quiet. Or, worse yet, they do speak up but in a hostile way that only escalates the conflict and gets them no closer in getting across what they wanted to say.
This doesn’t need to happen. By using some simple techniques when giving or receiving negative information, we can lesson the hostility and make our communication more effective and a lot less stressful.
In order to deal with conflict rationally, try and distance yourself enough to evaluate the situation and then decide on a response.
This can be difficult because when someone shouts at or challenges us our first instinct is to protect ourselves. We may lash out in an attempt to protect ourselves.
It helps to realize that the other person probably did not set out to cause us pain. Usually that person was just trying to get our attention without thinking about how it might make us feel. When you realize that the other person didn’t mean to hurt you, you can come up with a more effective response.
To respond to a disagreeable person without escalating the problem, reply in neutral ways. You can do this by keeping your tone of voice neutral and by not emphasizing any of your words, as this can signal anger.
Another way is to speak in the third-person. Instead of, “You’ve got to get your vehicle back to the shop by noon. It’s driving everyone crazy when you are late each week.” Try removing the emotion and de-personalize what you say by stating, “When vehicles aren’t returned promptly at the specified time many people get frustrated because they can’t do their work without the vehicle assigned to them.”
By sticking to the facts and avoiding personal language, you create a sense of neutrality and control. It tends to stop an argument and makes it feel less personally threatening.
Sometimes people simply don’t respond to diplomacy. If you’ve repeatedly tried to get your message across in pleasant and neutral ways – without success – you may need to sit down with the person privately and state your position frankly. Remember however when you use this tactic, to be sure to keep the degree of hostility in you voice as low as possible. Passion can help get your point across, but hostility won’t.