Arguments erupt all the time. Even the best managers can’t stop them.
But you can establish ground rules for combatants so that they confront each other in a civilized manner. If they know how to conduct themselves, they’re more likely to control their temper and think before they react to what they hear.
Tell employees to apply these rules to soften their confrontations:
Ask one-sentence questions. Early in an argument, participants should be striving to learn how the other person thinks. That’s the foundation upon which to build lasting resolutions.
Posing short questions prevents arguers from making inquiries that are thinly disguised lectures. You don’t want angry people to use a seemingly harmless question as an opening to launch an attack.
Example: “I want to ask you why you said that because it struck me as offensive. How dare you! Who do you think you are, talking to me that way!” That’s not a question; it’s venting.
Replace judgments with observations. Train people to describe what they observed and skip the opining. By presenting observable reality free of editorial asides, they gain clarity and power.
For instance, it’s better to say, “When you raised your voice, four bystanders looked over at us to see what was going on,” than to exclaim, “What gives you the right to yell at me like that!”
No interruptions, please. Sure, it’s tough to hear someone make inflammatory accusations or mischaracterize our actions. But make sure your team honors the rule of waiting for the speaker to stop before responding.