How to avoid verbal conflict at work

by Aug 10, 2017

5 Tips to avoid verbal conflict

We can all get worked up but it’s best to avoid verbal conflict in the work place. Here’s 5 tips to keep yourself under control and resolve your issues calmly.

verbal conflict

Independent thinking is the hallmark of any successful professional. We all need to be able to communicate alternative ideas in a constructive and forward-looking way. But dissent can cause conflict, so it’s important to be able to present these ideas in such a way that we avoid verbal conflict.  Some women can fear conflict and some prefer to walk than continue the talk.

We all have emotional triggers that can lead to verbal conflict. It can be a tone of voice, a look, body language with attitude, or a topic that hits your red or hot spot zone. So if you feel your pulse rise, what can you do to take control to avoid escalation of a routine exchange to something more damaging?

Read: Speak Sooner to Prevent Needless Conflict

1. Breathe deeply

Take a moment to breathe – maybe two or three moments. This gives you time to be mindful and conscious of your responses, rather than getting trapped in unconscious reactions. Monitor your body language. Non-verbal communication can send major signals about your state of mind. Effective communication to avoid verbal conflict requires authenticity. That is your tone, content, and body language have to be aligned.  If they are not, it tends to kick-start a downward cycle leading to lack of trust. We all know the phrase, “smiling between clenched teeth.” Don’t fall into the trap of saying one thing and meaning another.

Read: 3 ways emails damage workplace trust

2. Listen

Buy some time by listening and asking some open-ended questions.  Scott Ginsberg said:

 “Listening is not waiting to talk.”

Really listen and process the information you have been given.

Read: The power of intentional communication

3. Don’t leap to judge

If you have processed the information you may have further questions.  You can look for clarification “If I’ve understood correctly you are suggesting that the new widget will….”   Stating facts rather than offering contradictory opinions is the best step forward. Ask if they considered your point of view. Iterate or re-iterate your opinion.

Read: How to achieve Constructive Communication

4. Avoid a zero sum result

Any exchange where someone needs to win will be a short-lived victory, with usually unforeseen longer term consequences. Always treat people with respect and leave their dignity intact. Negotiation has been compared to a dance where there is always room for “give and take”.  Your oppo will usually return the favour.

Read: 5 Manager Fails at Mindful Communication

5. Call time

If temperatures rise, suggest a cooling off period. The statutory 24 hour time-out period almost always works. If it doesn’t, then the divisions are probably deeper than the presenting issue.

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