After a loud argument with a peer or employee, you’re mortified by your behavior. You regret raising your voice, sighing and using harsh language.
A day or two has passed. Now what do you do?
If an apology is in order, make the most of it. In a calm moment, approach the individual and say, “About the other day, I’m not happy with the way that I communicated to you and I apologize.”
Then pause and await a response. If you’re lucky, the other person will grab on to your olive branch and offer one in return. Then you’re both ready to forge agreement on how to move on.
In some cases, however, your apology can set in motion another acrimonious dialogue. Others will read weakness into your conciliatory comments and pile on more accusations.
Don’t fall for the bait. Rather than lapse into attack mode, terminate the conversation at the earliest possible moment by saying, “I can tell you’re still upset. Let’s revisit this later.”
Another technique to rebound from verbal fireworks is to think about what you wish you had said in the heat of battle. Then use the answer as an icebreaker a few days later.
You might tell the person, “There’s something I wish I had said when we argued the other day that may help us get past this: When you use language that I find inappropriate, I get caught up in that language and it diverts me from paying attention to your actual message.”
Now you have an opening for a more constructive dialogue. You can then clarify in simple, honest, non-accusatory statements what solution steps you can both take.