Our changing world has increased political and other tensions, including conflicts relating to COVID-19. It’s important to use good communication skills to create a supportive work environment, avoid unfavorable outcomes and help you feel happier at work.
Respect other people’s perspectives. If you don’t agree with someone’s opinion, avoid frowning, rolling your eyes or looking away. Remember, we each come from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. This, in turn, affects the outside factors that can influence and reinforce our beliefs, including the news and social media.
Learn to manage hot topics thoughtfully. Recognize how you communicate your differences. If the other person seems uncomfortable or disagreeable, ask yourself, “Will this conversation improve my relationship with my coworker, or potentially damage it?”
If you’re sensing conflict, tune into your own emotional state. Are your upset feelings being triggered by making assumptions of what your coworker is feeling? Does the interaction remind you of someone else you don’t get along with? Recognize that you are responsible for how you feel and react to a situation.
Reflect back what the other person is saying. During a tense dialogue, responding with “so what I hear you saying is…” helps validate the other person’s perspective. Use “I” statements to frame your views, such as “I’ve always found that…” This avoids putting the other person on the defensive.
If the discussion is heading south, try saying this: “It seems we aren’t going to agree at the moment, so maybe we can switch the subject to something more lighthearted.” Or, you just may need to exit the conversation gracefully, saying something like, “I see your point, and I guess we will just have to agree to disagree today.”
Having difficulty with coworkers? Ask your health practitioner about a referral for counseling or seek support from your company’s EAP.