Word cloud

Choose the right words in an argument

Call To Letters — Feb 2019

When addressing a conflict with a colleague, words matter.

When things start to heat up with a colleague — you don’t see eye-to-eye on a project or you aren’t happy with the way you were treated in a meeting, for example — how can you choose your words carefully?

The words we use in confrontations can get us into trouble for three reasons:

  1. The stakes are usually high when emotions are;
  2. Our first instincts are usually off;
  3. There’s often misalignment between what we mean when we say something and what the other person hears.

So how do you avoid these traps? Following a few rules of thumb, you’ll have a better chance of resolving the conflict instead of inciting it:

  1. Say nothing - Hold back and let them say their piece. You don’t have to agree with it but listen.
  2. Ask questions - Instead of thinking about what you want to say, consider what you want to learn.
  3. Own your part - Don’t act like there is only one view of the problem at hand.

Of course, even if you follow this advice, sometimes there just aren’t the right words and it’s not possible to have a constructive discussion. “Occasionally, you need to let it go and come back to it another time when you can both have the conversation”. It’s OK to walk away and return to the discussion later, when you’re ready to make a smart and thoughtful choice about the words you want to use.

Read the full article, here.