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A dose of directness can alleviate lingering ill will

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in Workplace Communication,Workplace Conflict

Minor conflicts often mushroom into major ones because an aggrieved party chooses not to level with the other person. As a result, concerns go unspoken. Resentments stew. Tempers erupt.

Speaking forthrightly about your annoyance or anger to the person involved can go a long way toward restoring peace. Your ability to describe the situation in neutral, precise terms—and open up about the hurt or of-fense that you feel—can forge mutual understanding.

If you’re thinking, “Oh, I could never be direct. That’s just not my personality,” think again. Sure, it’s un-comfortable to raise a delicate issue with someone who irritates you. But avoidance will not make the problem go away on its own.

Prepare to speak directly by rehearsing with a friend. Express your view of the conflict in clear language and get feedback on whether you describe the matter accurately.

Say what you see—and how you feel—so that you don’t render judgments. For instance, say, “When you walked out after I voiced my objection to your proposal, I was hurt.” That’s better than making an accusation such as, “I don’t like when you insult me by storming away in a huff.”

No matter how diplomatically you discuss your grievance with someone, there’s no guarantee that you’ll both smile and shake hands when it’s over. And don’t assume the person will overhaul their behavior based on your urging.

“Beware of holding the absolute expectation that an abrasive person will change just because you raise their awareness about it,” says Laura Crawshaw, an executive coach in Portland, Ore. “They may not change. You may need to intervene twice or more over time.”


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