Temperatures Rising: Strategies for Handling Conflict

Strategies for Handling Conflict

We’re heating up here in Boston, and there’s so much to see and do this season!

While most people are thinking about all of the new activities to take advantage of in the Summer months, we can’t help but notice that with the heat outside comes shorter fuses and aggravation- and there’s nothing worse than letting off steam in the wrong place.

One of those places might end up being your workplace- you’re spending a lot of time with the same people every day or every week, daydreaming of being outside and enjoying the sunshine – it’s easy to let pent up frustrations escape when the pressure is on. We’re here to give you a few tips on how to cool your self off when you can feel your temper rising

Start by Quickly Relieving Your Stress

If the conflict hasn’t escalated too far, you might be able to reduce stress and avoid any incidents by practicing your own self-care. You can use your senses to find something that is soothing for you in the moment– look at a photo, plants, or close your eyes to envision something that brings you a sense of peace. Spray your favorite perfume (or if you’re at work, wander over to a section that might have pleasant smells). Give yourself a hand or neck massage, or take short walk. If you have some time, grab a cup of coffee or tea, or snack on some chocolate, or an apple, celery or carrots- the crunch can help to soothe your nerves. You can also hum to yourself or play some uplifting music.

Recognize Your Emotions

How can you handle a conflict effectively if you don’t understand what it is you are feeling? Being able to recognize your emotions will help you determine how to move forward. Take some time to think about the situation at hand- are you feeling angry? Scared? Sad? Maybe something happened earlier in the day or week that is still on your mind, and something that normally would not bother you  is being affected by that. Then think about what part of that situation triggered that feeling- was it the tone of voice used, the body language, or something else?

Improve Your Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Sometimes, conflict can be influenced not just by what you say, but the way in which you say something. Just as your anger or frustration can be triggered by how someone else presents themselves in a conflict, it’s a good idea to practice positive non-verbal skills as well. These include: Posture, Gestures, Tone of Voice, Eye Contact, Facial Expressions – and can quickly escalate, or de-escalate a situation. Putting in the extra effort to use a calming voice or a concerned and focused facial expression can help facilitate a more productive conversation. Take a mental note of the way you look when you are having strong, negative feelings, or ask others: What do I look like when I am stressed/angry/etc.?

Shift the Focus to the Future

So you’ve had a disagreement with a co-worker or boss. It’s not the end of the world, as long as you put in the time and effort to recognize each others differences, and plan ahead. When you shift the focus away from the moment and into how to work together more positively in the future, you’re preparing yourself for a stronger outcome and less tension in your work environment. Be clear about what part of the interaction set you off, apologize for any part you played, and express how you will handle it differently in the future, or what you can both do to prevent something like this happening again.

We know that any conflict in the workplace can create a difficult dynamic

You can take control of the situation by practicing some of the tips above, and taking a step back from the conflict and recognizing what created it in the first place. Good Luck!