When someone accuses you of a wrongdoing, you may want to fight back—or flee the situation altogether. Instead, control the direction of the conversation by following this process:
- Confirm your understanding. Say “You are angry because …, correct?”
- Acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Empathizing with the person is often enough to defuse the situation. Say “I understand why you are so upset.” If you are in the wrong, offer a genuine apology. Do not apologize and take the blame if you aren’t at fault. Instead say something like “I’m sorry that you feel this way. What can I do to help?”
- Stand up for yourself. Do not allow someone to berate or bully you. Say “I understand that you are angry, but I won’t be spoken to this way. Let’s talk when you aren’t so angry.” Walk away if the hostility continues. If you can’t resolve the conflict within a week, you may want to ask your manager or an HR employee to step in and mediate before matters worsen.
— Adapted from “How to Take Control of a Difficult Conversation,” Minda Zetlin, www.inc.com.