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Turning Down the Heat: How to Get Out of a Fight with a Coworker

Getting into an argument with a coworker is not a place anyone wants to be in. At some point, you stop listening and you start counting the veins popping out of their forehead. You’re both professionals here, but this is becoming a borderline impersonation of a drill sergeant and you need to deescalate this quickly. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Liane Davey shares tips for how to resolve an argument with a coworker:

  • Don’t disagree.
  • Demonstrate support.
  • Watch your body language.
  • Don’t lead the witness.

Cooler Heads

The big part of de-escalation is that you should try to not disagree. While you might instinctively want to point out how you think your colleague is wrong, that’ll just make them even more hostile. There’s probably an underlying reason as to why they’re as angry they are, so try to find the root cause through showing them that you’re actively trying to listen to their point of view. Digging into those emotions and perceptions of why there is an issue in the first place is a great way to get to a constructive solution without it becoming a scream-fest. Being supportive of your coworker and validating that they are being heard is a big step in the right direction.

Don’t string your coworker along either with loaded questions to get to the response you want to hear. That’s essentially tricking them, and no one likes being tricked when they’re upset. Make sure you ask open-ended questions and reflect back to them what you heard so they can clarify what was said.

Davey says a key factor of getting out of an argument with a coworker comes from portraying the right body language:

To ensure that your nonverbal behavior supports what you’re saying, adopt a neutral posture (neither leaning in nor out) and tone of voice. Sit upright with your arms at your sides, and fight the urge to lean in, push back, or cross your arms in defense. Talk at the pace, pitch, and volume that you normally speak in. Use every cue you have to signal that this is just another conversation and one you’re comfortable engaging in.

You can view the original article here: https://hbr.org/2017/06/how-to-de-escalate-an-argument-with-a-coworker

About Austin J. Gruver

Austin is a Staff Writer for AITS. He has a background in professional writing from York College.

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