It’s a natural reaction for anyone to get mad and want to fight back when they feel attacked at the office. Many people think that’s how you come out on top in these tense situations. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Instead, professionals come off looking defensive and guilty when blow ups and out-of-proportion responses pepper their conversations at work.
Follow these office communication approaches to keep you calm, give you the upper hand and get better results—no matter what tough professional situation you might be in.
- Use the block and bridge technique
The block and bridge technique is a communication method that helps you address the sensitive topic at hand while simultaneously presenting yourself in the best possible light.
For example, if a colleague or superior is falsely accusing you of some transgression while you’re in a meeting about a different subject, the block and bridge technique will help you maintain control and keep your cool.
Sample conversation: In a budget meeting for next year
Colleague: Sam has been spending a lot of time out of the office for meetings. I don’t think that’s right.
You: My schedule is well documented and I stand by my work ethic. If you’d like to discuss this further outside of the current meeting, I am more than willing to do so. For now, let’s keep the focus on the 2019 budget.
The first part of your hypothetical response is the block technique that addresses their accusation in a calm and collected manner: My schedule is well documented and I stand by my work ethic. If you’d like to discuss this further outside of the current meeting, I am more than willing to do so.
The second part is the bridge technique that allows you to bring the conversation back to the appropriate topic: For now, let’s keep the focus on the 2019 budget.
- Stay focused on results
One of the easiest ways to stay calm is to focus on results. It doesn’t matter how either party feels about the situation, because you’re all working to achieve results for the company. Following what has already been set as objectives by the company leaders will help you stay ahead in heated conversations at work.
Are a colleague’s projects not being finished on time, or are they consistently late to meetings or skipping out early without getting their work done? Refer to specific behaviors that benefit the company to help guide these conversations and find solutions without escalating the issue further.
- Don’t get emotional
It can’t be stressed enough: keep calm and stay neutral. It will help you manage any situation appropriately and assist you later on should the conflict escalate. Some great power phrases to use to stay calm are:
Let me reaffirm what I mentioned earlier.
This is what we agreed to, but I see you’re heading in a different direction.
It’s too early to say for sure; let’s talk about where we’re at right now.
If that turns out to be the case, then I’ll take action.
My preference is for us to speak favorably about the project.
- Document, document, document
It’s easy when you’re under attack to feel disheveled, but if you consistently record the evidence of your professional contributions, you’re more likely to come from a position of power when these situations arise. Periodically review your list of records to remind yourself that you’re on track with your assignments or projects. That way, people won’t be able to knock you down so easily.
- Don’t expect change
Office relationships can be tough to navigate, and they’re unfortunately not always resolved to your comfort level. It’s best to manage your own expectations and not expect a colleague to change overnight. Instead, focus on your work performance and maintaining your calm through tough professional conversations—it will serve you and your career much better in the long run.