Arguments don't arise out of thin air. As people say things that fuel animosity, the temperature heats up and tempers flare.
To exert a calming influence, use conciliatory statements that dignify an employee's views. Responding to an emotionally wound up individual with a wise, empathetic remark can reset the whole tone of the conversation to your advantage.
To prevent conflicts from escalating, mix and match among these mollifying statements:
"I know you want what's best for everyone." This assures employees that you attribute positive motives to their behavior. If they know that you perceive them as "the good guy," then they are less apt to lapse into defensiveness.
"I'm sure you can understand the complexity of this issue." Even angry employees will acknowledge that there are multiple sides to a thorny issue. By appealing to their understanding, you're really saying, "Hey, I'm trying to satisfy many people's needs, so cut me some slack."
"We're all facing a test here." Align yourself with the employee by subtly saying that you're boxed into a corner, too. This statement can also motivate someone with a proud, competitive personality to rise above adverse circumstances better than anyone else.