This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
In The Workplace
Using Cooperative Communication
By Robert Bacal, M.A. Institute For Cooperative Communication
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Using Cooperative Communication
By Robert Bacal, M.A.
Also By Robert Bacal
Human Resource Planning For Public Sector Manager A Critical Look At Performance Management Systems - Why Dont They Work In The Public Eye - Managing In The Public Sector Total Quality Management In The Public Eye Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook (Public Sector) Defusing Hostile/Volatile Situations For Educators
BACAL & ASSOCIATES 252 Cathcart St. Winnipeg, Mb. Canada, R3R 0S2 Copyright © 1998 by Robert Bacal All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part. ISBN 0-9683722-7-9
Table Of Contents
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Preface ................................................................................... 5
Making Use of This Book ..................................................................................5 Contacting Us ...................................................................................................6
Section I - An Overview Of Conflict In Organizations............ 7
The Inevitability of Conflict ................................................................................8 Good Organizational Conflict ............................................................................9 Ugly Conflict ......................................................................................................9 Contributors to Ugly Conflict In The Workplace ................................................10 Summary ...........................................................................................................11 KeyPoints ..........................................................................................................12
Section II - Cooperative Versus Conflict Provoking Communication ...................................................................... 13
The Essential Difference: Cooperative Communication ...................................15 Cooperative Communication .............................................................................16 The Psychology Beneath Cooperation & Confrontation ...................................16 What Angers People Or Primes The Conflict Pump .........................................17 Lack of Listening/Understanding ......................................................................17 “Less Than” Communication .............................................................................17 Communicating Mistrust ...................................................................................18 Violations of Conversation Rules ......................................................................19 Blatant Generalizations .....................................................................................19 Power/Status-Based Communication ...............................................................20 Other Sources ...................................................................................................20
Section III - A Brief Conflict-Provoking Communication Self-Assessment .................................................................... 21
Instructions........................................................................................................ 22 Conflict-Provoking Communication Self-Assessment .......................................23 Making Sense of The Self-Assessment ............................................................25
Section IV - Specific Conflict-Provoking Behaviours .............. 26
Person Centred Comments & Criticism ............................................................27 Past Centred Comments ...................................................................................28 Guilt-Induction Attempts.................................................................................... 28
© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 1
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Blaming Comments ...........................................................................................29 Inappropriate Reassurance and Positive Thinking ...........................................29 Unsolicited Advice/Commands .........................................................................30 Lengthy Attempts At Persuasion.......................................................................31 Defensiveness-Causing Questions ...................................................................31 Extended Attempts To Win ...............................................................................32 Mistrust Statements ..........................................................................................32 Overstatements and Overgeneralization ..........................................................32 Infallibility Comments (and qualification comments) .........................................33 Histrionic Behaviour (Overdramatization) .........................................................33 Use Of Hot Phrases and Words .......................................................................34 Use of Code Words and Innuendo....................................................................36 Passive-Aggressive Behaviour .........................................................................36 End of Chapter Comments ...............................................................................36
Section V - Replacing Conflict Provoking Communication With Cooperative Communication ................ 38
Cooperative Communication Review ................................................................39 Replacement Strategies.................................................................................... 39 Replacing Person-Centred Phrases .................................................................39 Replacement Possibilities .................................................................................39 Past-Centred Comments ..................................................................................40 Replacement Possibilities .................................................................................40 Guilt-Induction Attempts.................................................................................... 41 Inappropriate Reassurance & Positive Thinking ...............................................42 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................42 Giving Unsolicited Advice/Commands ..............................................................42 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................43 Lengthy Attempts At Persuasion/Extended Attempts At Winning ....................43 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................44 Defensiveness-Causing Questions ...................................................................44 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................44 Mistrust Statements ..........................................................................................45 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................45 Overstatements & Overgeneralizations ............................................................46 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................46 Infallibility & Status/Qualifications Statements ..................................................47 Replacement Possibilities .................................................................................47 Histrionic Behaviour & Overdramatization ........................................................48 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................48 Use of Hot Phrases & Words ............................................................................49 Use of Code Words & Innuendo .......................................................................49 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................49 The Humour Justification ..................................................................................50 Replacement Possibilities .................................................................................50 Passive-Aggressive Behaviour .........................................................................50 Possible Replacements.....................................................................................51 End Of Chapter Comments...............................................................................51
© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 2
Table 1 - Summary of Conflict-Provoking Replacement Options ......................52 Table 2 - Some Examples of How To Replace Hot Words & Phrases ..............57 Worksheet 1 - Add Your Own Personal Confrontation Provoking Behaviours/Phrases ..........................................................................................58
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Section VI -General Cooperative Communication Strategies ............................................................................... 59
Active or Reflective Listening ............................................................................60 Limits, Cautions and Guidelines For Listening..................................................61 Empathy Responses .........................................................................................62 Limits, Cautions and Guidelines For Empathy Responses ...............................63 Assertive Behaviour ..........................................................................................64 The Assertive Request......................................................................................64 Limits, Cautions & Guidelines For Assertiveness .............................................65 Responsiveness ................................................................................................66 Limits, Cautions & Guidelines For Responsiveness .........................................67 Steps In The Responsiveness Process ............................................................68 The Responsive Team Member’s Creed ...........................................................68 Keypoints: Responsiveness Checklist (apply to each interaction) ....................69
Section VII - Organization, Team, and Management Involvement In Conflict Prevention ......................................... 70
Effective Teams.................................................................................................71 How Do Teams Get To This Point? ...................................................................72 Establishing Guidelines, Norms, and Processes ..............................................72 How Do You Make Rules & Guidelines A Reality .............................................73 The Role of Those In Formal Authority .............................................................75 The Manager/Supervisory Role ........................................................................75 What Is Responsive Management? ..................................................................76 Other Roles .......................................................................................................76 Meeting Management Role ...............................................................................77 Keypoints ..........................................................................................................78
Section VIII - When Push Comes To Shove .......................... 79
Understanding Escalation .................................................................................80 Principles of Defusing Hostility.......................................................................... 81 Deal With Person’s Feelings First .....................................................................81 Begin To Defuse Early ......................................................................................82 Be Assertive, Not Manipulative, Passive or Aggressive....................................82 The Critical Message: “It Isn’t Going To Work With Me”...................................82 If You Lose Control, You Lose, Period! .............................................................82 What You Focus On You Get More Of ..............................................................83 Avoid High Risk, High Gain Behaviour..............................................................83
© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 3
Don’t Take The Bait ...........................................................................................84 Some Other Comments .................................................................................... 84
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Section X - Electronic Communication Issues ....................... 85
Electronic Communication Issues & Conflict ....................................................86 A Little Communication Theory .........................................................................86 Why Is E-mail More Prone to Creating Unnecessary Conflict? ........................87 Guidelines and Tips For The Use of E-mail In The Workplace.........................88 Keypoints ..........................................................................................................89
Section XII - Question & Answer Session .............................. 90
One Size Fits All?.............................................................................................. 91 Absolutes & Over-dramatization .......................................................................91 Healthiness and Pent-Up Anger .......................................................................92 Gossip ...............................................................................................................92 The Preponderance Of Confrontational Communication ..................................93
Section XIII - Some Closing Comments ................................. 95
© Robert Bacal, 1998
After almost a decade teaching people how to defuse hostile, angry people, it occurred to me that defusing angry or difficult people is only half the story. Getting along with people in the workplace -- with bosses, customers and co-workers, isn’t just about dealing with conflict when it occurs, but about learning how to prevent destructive conflict from happening in the first place. Defusing hostile, manipulative people is important, since there will be situations where, unprovoked, people will treat you badly no matter what you do. I’ve now come to the conclusion that a good amount of workplace conflict simply isn’t necessary. It is created because people (and that means all of us) do and say things that are likely to cause conflict. Usually we don’t do so intentionally. We do so because we aren’t aware of how our own behaviour; the ways we communicate, actually contribute to creating problems for ourselves and for those around us. While we aren’t always aware of how we create interpersonal problems, we all know enough about language and communication to know what helps us work well with others, and what contributes to rocky relationships. It’s just that we don’t use more cooperative approaches consistently. Sometimes we forget, or are frustrated and annoyed, or have a bad day. Then we slip up, and create conflict that isn’t necessary. The good news is that all of us can learn new ways of communicating, and “remember” to use what we already know without a great deal of study and effort. We don’t have to start from scratch. What we need to do is uncover and make use of what we already know, and learn to use those skills consistently and effectively. That’s where this “Keypoint Series” book is going to help. Our goal is to help you use what you already know about getting along with people, and introduce some communication issues you may not have considered. We set out the elements of communication that tend to create workplace conflict, and we provide you with specific, concrete and practical ways to replace those conflict causing elements with more cooperative ways of communicating.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Making Use of This Book
Communication is a funny thing. It is something we do without thinking or reflecting about what we are doing. While learning how to communicate more cooperatively and reduce conflict isn’t rocket science, it does take consistent effort. That’s because we have to rearrange our communication habits, many of which we have been using for decades, and in some cases since early childhood. You have to work at it. The first step in reducing conflict and conflict causing communication is to identify the
© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 5
ca or by mail at the address below. If you want to share successes. Did you succeed? In what situations did you not succeed? Contacting Us: We are always interested in success stories. think about how you could change your communication behaviours. conflict prevention. for a day.escape. we ask you to complete a brief self-assessment checklist. then think specifically about how you could have used more effective language. While you are reading. available free of charge. To help you do this. Our web site can be reached at: http://www. Sometimes it is useful to think of a specific. particularly in emotionally charged situations. At the end of the time period. Canada R3R 0S2 (204) 888-9290 © Robert Bacal. Robert Bacal Institute For Cooperative Communication 252 Cathcart St. This will help you increase your awareness regarding ineffective communication patterns that you use. we will be posting information on our Internet web site. Winnipeg. As we develop additional material on this subject. recent conflict communication and recall what you said. proceed through the text of the book. you can contact us via the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org/~rbacal We are available for seminar delivery and speaking engagements on cooperative communication. decide to eliminate blaming statements from your communication. Consider setting daily conflict reduction goals. or how you have applied the ideas in this book.ways that you contribute to conflict situations. or a week. early on in the book. defusing hostility and team development. For example. 1998 Page 6 . Conflict Prevention In The Workplace After you have done that. ideas. evaluate your progress. Mb. performance appraisal. Give us a call at the phone number listed below. in addition to other helpful tips and articles.
1998 Page 7 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section I An Overview Of Conflict In Organizations The Inevitability of Conflict Good Organizational Conflict Ugly Conflict Contributors To Ugly Conflict In The Workplace © Robert Bacal.
© Robert Bacal. regardless of the issue. it means that you and I CARE enough about the issue to take a stand and advocate and argue for what we believe is best. and in fact there is a positive aspect to it. you will understand what we mean. once it reaches certain levels does something more than cause minor problems.An Overview Conflict Prevention In The Workplace One workplace issue that generates frequent expressions of emotion. where each person’s behaviour is serves as fuel for the fire. Before we discuss other issues about workplace conflict and how each of us can work to prevent it. For some people it makes their workday just a little less enjoyable. and people care about what they are doing and how they are treated. or perhaps some other issue like how I might be treating you. I call another team-member an “effing idiot”. New ideas can emerge from conflicts--new ways of thinking and doing things that can be useful to everyone. If you think for a moment about your own workplace experiences. For example. Teams. we need to understand what workplace conflict means. The catch is that there are two kinds of conflict that are not growth producing or productive. workplace conflicts have reached the point where they are at wit’s end. When you and I disagree. Even a single ongoing “personality conflict” can make coming to work a dreaded process. organizations and ourselves. higher turnover. if. we will have disagreements and conflict in the workplace. or get into heated conversation. Some conflicts are actually good. The second kind of conflict is conflict that. frustration and anger is conflict. So long as we work together in teams and organizations. and the different kinds of conflict that occur.Conflict In Organizations . and more employee burnout. we are going to disagree about how something should be done. organizations. and some downright ugly. where they consider leaving the organization. Organizations and teams frequently immersed in conflict situations tend to have lower morale levels. The first is conflict that is unnecessary--that occurs as a result of the language we use with each other. in a meeting. I would be creating a conflict which is not likely to be productive or constructive. and even individuals need conflict interactions to grow. Eventually if you and I are working together on a work task. For others. the frequency and intensity of workplace conflict around them makes them a bit more than “uncomfortable”. Neither would we want to because we would lose an important way to grow our teams. is dealt with in ways that make the conflict unresolvable. some not so good. We can’t eliminate all conflict. lower productivity. Workplace conflict. or vice versa. And for some people. The Inevitability of Conflict Conflict occurs naturally when people interact. That’s normal. 1998 Page 8 . or what each of us should be doing to get the task done.
Good Organizational Conflict Good organizational conflict is conflict and disagreement that allows the organization or people in it to grow. “Good” conflict also stimulates creativity and problem solving. ugly conflict creates some very powerful negative emotions on the part of the people involved. lobbying for support. take sides. They need to understand how to “fight fair”. They just can’t stand each other. Second. Second. And. particularly if other team members get pulled into the emotional firestorm. People often use the term “personality conflict” to refer to ugly conflict between two people. they tend to make organizational enemies as conflicts become more and more personalized. people involved in this kind of ugly conflict use language differently than people engaged in constructive conflict. When one says let’s go for pizza. and lower their ways of communicating to the level of the people involved directly in the ugly conflict. feelings of discomfort and lack of trust and security can result. Ugly conflict occurs when the conflict is unnecessary or is handled so it becomes a personal confrontation between the people or sides. particularly when the situation has occurred over time and over many issues. emotional aspects of conflict from the problem-solving parts. people in the organization need the skills and understanding required to interact in conflict situations so they avoid escalating conflicts into the bad and ugly ranges. If other team members are forced to be observers of such conflict. First. If one says white the other says black. above all. rather than solving the initiating issue. 1998 Page 9 . Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Ugly Conflict Ugly conflict is the flip side of the coin. and generally being angry. What starts as a reasonable disagreement escalates into a situation where considerable bad feelings are generated. As these conflict play out (and they are often unresolvable because there is no central issue to resolve). the other wants Chinese food. It isn’t that two people involved in a personality conflict have a specific identifiable disagreement. Good organizational conflict helps people examine what they take for granted. and the shift is made to “defeating” each other. ugly conflicts are disruptive for the team. almost on principle. For organizations to benefit from conflict a few things need to happen. © Robert Bacal. and ineffective old ways of doing things. They waste considerable time and energy trying to “defeat” the other. When people become overly invested in their positions. and counterbalance the inertia that most organizations develop. solve problems more effectively. and stay focused on problem-solving. the team has to suffer through wasted effort and time. People in the organization need to be able to separate the personal. Personalization means that people forget they are on the same side and see each other as very personal enemies. The effects of ugly conflict or personality conflict are profound.
Ugly #3: Secrecy A common means of avoiding conflict (or repressing it) is to be secretive. we find they seem to share some or all of the following. doing nothing generally results in conflict escalation.Apart from your own gut feelings. etc. cancelling meetings. rather than problem-solve • people in the conflict focus on personal issues. organizations as a whole “conspire” to create ugly conflict. In addition to the ways people interact. provided the decision to do nothing is well thought out and based on an analysis of the situation. Unfortunately. or discomfort with anger. going to the boss to have someone fired or disciplined).. Sometimes. and sets a tone of denial for the organization. and personal qualities such as loyalty. This can be done by employees and managers. The manager who uses orbiting will say things like “We are dealing with the problem”. ways of talking. Ugly #1: Nonaction Conflict Prevention In The Workplace The most common repressive strategy is nonaction — doing nothing.g. Contributors to Ugly Conflict In The Workplace Conflicts move from “good” to “ugly” in a number of ways. Most of the time. The notion is that if nobody knows what you are © Robert Bacal. doing nothing is a smart thing to do. While nonaction suggests obliviousness since it doesn’t even acknowledge the problem. people “do nothing” about conflict situations for other reasons. If we look at organizations that foster ugly conflict. 1998 Page 10 . Common stalls include: collecting more data. Ugly #2: Administrative Orbiting Administrative orbiting means keeping appeals for change or redress always “under consideration”. such as fear of bringing conflict into view. but avoids dealing with it. orbiting acknowledges the problem. you can recognize ugly conflict using the following characteristics: • conflict between the parties runs for a long time and across many issues • people have given up resolving the conflict and have moved to trying to score points. documenting performance. • people are often labelled. such as styles. So long as the organization (and management) believes ”we don’t have conflict here” the issues underlying conflict cannot be addressed. • participants look to a higher authority to “fix” the problem using power (e. rudeness. but the problem never gets addressed.
That brings us back to the point of this book. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Ugly #4: Law and Order The final “ugly strategy”. we will never eliminate conflict. and power. It’s like ordering someone not to breathe! Of course. As time goes on the behaviour of the combatants gets worse with other noncombatants drawn into the fray. By being secretive you may delay conflict and confrontation. and care about the issue at hand. and people is to do everything possible to prevent ugly conflict from occurring and to prevent small conflict from escalating in major. It also occurs as “death by a thousand blows”. personal and wastes time. We need to look at conflict as an opportunity. long term war in the workplace. but when it does surface it will have far more negative emotions attached to it than would have been the case if things were more open. you will realize its absurdity. through the way they interact on a day-to-day basis develop a dislike of each other to the point where they will argue. where it will grow and increase its destructive power. it cannot be resolved. In order to prevent destructive conflict. After a point. conflict brings bad things. since without a clear cause.doing. the damage is so bad that it can’t be fixed © Robert Bacal. We can live with some conflict. destructive. the person using the approach “leans on” people to repress the outward manifestations of conflict. In reality. Normally this strategy is used by managers who mistakenly think that they can order people not to be in conflict. and if you ask one or the other of the combatants what is going on they will probably cite a “personality conflict” or some general statement of dislike. debate and even insult each other at the drop of a hat. we will probably only force some of it underground. and to deal with it effectively we need to understand something about what conflict is about. being aware that a good amount of the time. Sometimes two people. What we can’t live with is conflict that is trivial. this doesn’t make conflict go away. Or. it can make everyone miserable. The trick for organizations. Conflict can be an effective way for everyone to grow. learn and become more productive and satisfied in the workplace. Using regulations. Summary People tend to look at conflict in the workplace as being negative. If you think about this for a moment. and if we attempt to do so. This kind of conflict is almost always destructive to an organization. it just sends it scuttling to the underground. It occurs when people have legitimate differences of opinion on a subject. There is no one specific issue in these kinds of conflicts. Conflict can occur for many reasons. as you well know. and sometimes really ugly things. 1998 Page 11 . there can be little conflict.
believe it or not. It can help people and teams grow. and make workplace life miserable. or isolating the combatants somehow.without moving someone. And. Our goals regarding conflict are to: • handle disagreements so they do not become ugly ongoing conflict. it CAN be prevented to a great degree. waste huge amounts of time. although even that doesn’t always eliminate the closed door backbiting and gossip that comes with this ugly territory. Conflict can be “good” or it can be ugly. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace We are going to focus primarily on preventing this kind of unnecessary conflict. • reduce or eliminate unnecessary conflict. 3) Whether disagreement results in good or ugly outcomes depends on how the disagreements are handled and whether conflicts are necessary and important to getting things done. We can be less concerned about the conflict that occurs due to legitimate differences of opinion. 2) Workplace conflict can be productive or nonproductive. KeyPoints 1) Conflict in the workplace is inevitable and occurs because people care about what they are doing. because it is the source of most organizational grief. recognizing that we can’t eliminate all conflict. 1998 Page 12 . or it can retard growth. although we need to address how to conduct those kinds of discussions so they don’t escalate into destructive personalized conflicts. © Robert Bacal.
1998 Page 13 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section II Cooperative Versus Conflict Provoking Communication The Essential Difference: Cooperative Communication The Psychology Beneath Cooperation & Confrontation What Angers People Or Primes The Conflict Pump Lack of Listening/Understanding “Less Than” Communication Communicating Mistrust Violations of Conversation Rules Blatant Generalizations Power/Status-Based Communication © Robert Bacal.
often destructive. Have you ever noticed that some people seem to walk through life. They never challenge people. and being told to “lighten up”. “relax” or to be reassured that everything will turn out OK in the end (ever notice that when people say that it almost never turns out OK?) Like overly cautious drivers. they cover other people in the same dust. 1998 Page 14 . the conflict avoiders. On the other side of the coin we have people who do everything they can to avoid conflict (that’s not the same as preventing it by the way). So. The third group of people is the one we need to focus on. recognize that some things need to be addressed. easy to get along with. It makes sense. It isn’t that they avoid conflict. If we want to learn how to prevent destructive. and as very constructive people. drawing people into avoidable problem situations. we need to look at people who rarely get involved in ugly conflict situations. even when they are not directly involved. Sadly conflict-avoiders generally don’t see the havoc they wreak. You would think that conflict-avoiders would experience a lot less conflict. and deal with it when it is worth dealing with. they tend to “smooth” over differences with others. Preventers are comfortable with conflict. even if it needs to be dealt with. we should start with some observations. Other people characterize them as “sweeties”. Often they are the people who get respect from everyone. but in fact that’s not true. © Robert Bacal. so they are more valuable. and what’s worse. It is absolutely important that we make the distinction between avoidance and prevention.Cooperative Vs. and the people who get promoted if they have the other required skills. Conflict-Provoking Communication Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Before we introduce our two different ways of communicating and how they relate to conflict and prevention. These people are almost always in conflict somehow or somewhere. Pigpen? Where ever they go they seem to be accompanied by a cloud of conflict dust. but don’t go looking for it. By avoiding conflict and constantly smoothing it over. they actually create more conflict. and the conflict preventers . There is nothing more frustrating for people than having a concern that is important to them. unnecessary conflict. like the Peanuts cartoon character. And there are people who seem to get on in the workplace without getting on anyone’s hit list. Avoiders will do everything they can to sweep conflict under the carpet. They are adept at preventing conflict. They don’t cost the organization wasted time by creating or participating in ugly conflict. and seem only to want a peaceful orderly environment in which to work. leaving a wake of damaged cars in ditches. The problem is that their personal need to avoid all conflict makes others feel they aren’t being listened to. we have three kinds of people: The conflict-creators. these folks tend to create problems for others.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace So.. They communicate consistently (that’s important) in ways that either prevent conflict or put an end to it in an effective way.. and integrated the findings with research on linguistics and psychology. What came out the end was the term COOPERATIVE COMMUNICATION. work with the same people. Their colleagues usually corroborate their position. and go through red tape? I’ve had the opportunity to work with over 6. Why? Because if YOU want to be a conflict preventor. what is it about the “preventers” that is different from the avoiders and the creators? Is it because they are easy-going? Perhaps they care more or less? Did they have a better family environment? It’s possible that some of these things apply. One thing stands out. The Essential Difference: Cooperative Communication Over the last ten years. particularly conflict based © Robert Bacal. day after day. They habitually and automatically respond in ways that other people find non-provocative. But what? After interacting with these people for a while. What we need to know is: What do conflict preventers do differently? How do their interactions differ from others? Do they communicate differently? If we can figure that out. who really likes paying taxes. Wrong. or simply clued out. About one in fifteen to twenty people report that they never really have problems with angry clientele.. I have been teaching people (usually people who work in government) how to defuse hostile.perhaps they just had such thick skins they were too dense to realize when they had difficulties. having to conform to safety regulations. angry and volatile situations.000 people. a family of ways of communicating that tend to reduce conflict.. We looked at what they did. After all. but it isn’t terribly useful for us to look at things like personality traits or deep psychological reasons. when they are having good days. 1998 Page 15 . you probably aren’t going to have much success if I tell you you need to become more easy-going. then we can learn how to prevent conflict by using the techniques they use to deal effectively with conflict. but don’t have the same problems. They don’t do it part of the time. We can’t change the past and we can’t do personality make-over. even act differently compared to their more conflict-prone colleagues. getting to know them in our seminars. it became more and more obvious that they talk differently. They report this even though their colleagues report great difficulty working with the same people. And.they do it consistently. At first I thought these people were fibbing (albeit inadvertently). The only explanation for this phenomenon is that these conflict-immune people somehow do things differently. they don’t give people reason to dislike them or attack them. helpful and soothing. Whatever your family environment decades ago. you can’t change it now. They do the same jobs. Government staff tend to deal with a good many angry people because of their role in enforcing laws many people do not want applied to them.
. Stop here for a moment and see if you can do it. it becomes very difficult to create good working relationships. If you wanted to really get them angry at you. That’s because people in the same culture have similar notions of what is insulting. If you think about it for a moment. demeaning. Before we do. you will realize that if you really want to. Cooperative Communication Conflict Prevention In The Workplace The idea behind cooperative communication is that there are certain ways of expressing ourselves that encourage people to listen. and work with us in cooperative ways. not on the same side. When conflict-provoking communication is used. a spouse.. your boss. and little interested in listening. let’s look at some basic psychology.on “personality”. The opposite of cooperative communication is “conflict-provoking communication”. polarizing. Cooperative communication techniques tend to help other people see us as on the same side as themselves. etc. The Psychology Beneath Cooperation & Confrontation People in any one culture tend to share the same ideas about what “pisses them off”. etc. the things that pave the way for good work© Robert Bacal. Some things you might say or do will anger most people. could you do it? What would you say? How would you say it? For people you know really well. and probably more importantly. Even if one or two group members use conflict-provoking communication. Think of a person in your workplace. rather than the content. you could easily anger them. We’re going to present the very specific behaviours associated with cooperative and conflict-provoking communication in the next chapter. People who use these patterns appear to others as annoying. It’s actually a good thing that anger-provoking language is shared to some degree. without knowing their individual hot buttons. 1998 Page 16 . you can figure out ways to anger another person in a very short time. or get much accomplished. and problem-solving. Similarly. you can hit their “hot buttons” or triggers. What’s interesting is that if you met a total stranger. They are the conflict Pigpens of the workplace. real dialogue. because it means we don’t have to know a person really well to know what NOT to do. The communication patterns of conflict-provoking communication tend to encourage others to see people using these patterns as being on “the other side”. a lot of energy is spent reacting to the form of the communication. hear. hostile.since everyone has their own sensitive areas.
We all want to feel listened to. Many of the specific characteristics of confrontational language relate to this idea of comparing someone to someone else. That helps us know what we should be saying. tends to trigger either a counterattack or defensiveness. What most people don’t realize is that every day language used by most of us can convey that message in subtle ways. The person feeling misunderstood is likely to escalate their efforts. either directly or indirectly. (Note: It doesn’t work but it gets people mad). Less Than Communication We know that any language or action that somehow demeans or suggests that a person is “less than” another person (no matter who it is). What is interesting (and what you will learn shortly) is that we needn’t be outright abusive to cause someone to be angry. perhaps thousands of ways to suggest to someone they are unworthy. There are always people around that are going to be difficult no matter what you do. We are making some generalizations here about what works and what doesn’t work. However if you avoid confrontational communication and use cooperative communication you will be more LIKELY to develop and keep positive relationships in the workplace. or to defend yourself. This kind of conversation is a real relationshipkiller. increasing the intensity of the discussion. Before we continue.place relationships are also somewhat predictable. less than. insignificant. Our language contains hundreds. but our primary desire is to be UNDERSTOOD and heard. what reaction wells up inside you when some- © Robert Bacal. there is of course no guarantee that they will work with any one specific person. Lack of Listening/Understanding One of the primary reasons people talk to others is a desire. 1998 Page 17 . or need to be understood and to feel accepted. We prefer that people agree with us. frustration and anger often result. This can continue until someone gives up in disgust or frustration. and one perceives that the other is not making an effort to understand. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace What Angers People Or Primes The Conflict Pump As you go through this section. When two people talk. you might want to think of the things that people say to you that get you primed for a conflict. It’s pretty obvious that saying “You’re a pea-brained idiot whose arms drag on the ground” is meant to be demeaning or an attempt to cause the other person to feel “less than”. For example. we should clarify one point. While they will be right generally.
If the person is late with their “part”. won’t you?” How do you think Sam is going to react? Probably not terribly nicely. In later chapters we will tell you how to deal with these kinds of situations in cooperative © Robert Bacal. Underneath this. you would work the overtime we are asking you to put in”. or responding to you”. Why? Because it is a blatant statement of mistrust. you might experience a minor angry reaction. peaceful relationship. So. all of us need to become more sensitive to the indirect ways we create friction with those around us. you approach Sam beforehand. Since people in general are quite sensitive to both direct insults and indirect. there is another message. You might as well have said that. Also. or “This is trivial. and you will catch heat from the higher-ups. You say: “Sam. Communicating Mistrust Probably for reasons linked to the idea of implying a person is “less than”. indirectly that the boss sees you as a disloyal person.this is not a question that is likely to build a productive. Sam. you will get this done on time. and so are you right now”. however common nowadays. 1998 Page 18 . because that’s what’s going to get heard. or perhaps a major one.. Wouldn’t that drive you nuts? Why? Because it says. Why is that? Because “whatever” has a hidden message underneath it. people have a great deal of difficulty with language that suggests they are untrustworthy or unreliable. Another example: Your boss says: “If you were really a loyal employee. you won’t be able to do your part. The REAL message is “You aren’t important enough for me to bother listening to you. who isn’t terribly good at time management. This one is particularly interesting. Maybe the boss doesn’t really mean that but that’s how you will interpret it.. let’s assume that you are working on a project together. THAT’S the reason that phrase. Let me give some examples. or keeping his commitments. We need to avoid those subtle remarks if we want to create positive workplace relationships. and that message is “I expect you to screw this up because you just aren’t reliable”. If you are like most people. somewhat hidden insults. hoping to remind him of the importance of getting the task done on time. because even when people are clearly unreliable in the workplace. Imagine that you work with a colleague. suggesting to them that they are unreliable is likely to begin a shooting war that can last forever. bugs people so much. just so I know.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace one says: “Whatever” in response to something you said.
they aren’t listening any more as they prepare to present THEIR counter-argument. both verbal and nonverbal to indicate that s/he is finished talking and it is now the other person’s turn. The psychology of this is rather interesting. Conversation is a turn-taking process. When two people talk. selfish. In these situations the likely best result is frustration. the other person will somehow “link up” to what the other person said. After all. “every time”. The major reason it mobilizes resistance and causes people’s messages to go unheard is that generalizations are almost always wrong. rude or demeaning. probably anger tinged debate about whether it is true. Or. you argue with me”. every time I talk to you. saying: “You know. if you are talking to your boss about an important project. we expect that when one person finishes speaking.ways. The rules aren’t that complicated. Blatant generalizations are particularly lethal when aimed at a particular person. the other will refrain from talking at the same time. etc. Violations of Conversation Rules Conflict Prevention In The Workplace There are some basic rules for conversations--rules that we learn (or are supposed to learn) when we are children. While they are doing that. The more likely response to people who constantly violate these rules is anger and a desire to avoid the person. listeners tend to look for ways to attack the “always” position. “never”. Often the breaking of these rules sends the message that the other speaker is insignificant. For example. what about the following statement said in a team meeting: “We always get lost talking nonsense at these meetings”. and whose fault it might be if it’s true and on and on. The result is people get frustrated. is quite likely to start an argument about whether there is an argument “every time”. 1998 Page 19 . and usually contain words like “always”. each and every time? When a speaker uses generalizations or overstatements. For now the important part is to realize that statements of mistrust are likely to poison relationships even if there is valid reason for mistrust. what really occurs every time. © Robert Bacal. or poke holes in the argument. This is likely to start a spirited. Blatant Generalizations Blatant generalizations are essentially “overstatements” or exaggerations. the one who is speaking will send subtle cues. Second. Those rules are important since they allow two people to talk in some orderly fashion. you don’t expect him/her to change the subject to the price of potatoes in Idaho (unless of course your project has to do somehow with potatoes). When these rules are violated the person violating them is seen as uninterested. First we expect that when one person talks. For example.
particularly if that expertise is self-proclaimed. the statement “I’m the boss around here and we are going to do it my way. Likewise. or perceive conflict when the other person: • • • • • • • • • • • Provides unsolicited advice Appears to be trying to create guilt in another Offers reassurances that are hollow or not based on reality Communicates using “gloss it over” positive thinking Offers sympathy that seems false or lacking in understanding Pressures a person to change (opinion. Presenting oneself as an expert in a subject can also be problematic. using a position of power or status in an unfair way. the use of this kind of communication encourages people to knock them down a peg. position or as a person) Appears to want to blame rather than fix Clearly wants to “win” by proving someone wrong Comes across as infallible (in their own mind) Uses excessive dramatic language and histrionics Uses certain kinds of “hot words”. For example a person with an advanced academic degree (like a PhD) might say: “I have a PhD. or. The problem is that people resent those that use power/status-based communication because they see it as “putting on airs”. 1998 Page 20 . Conflict Prevention In The Workplace In the next chapter. in this.Power/Status-Based Communication Power based or status based communication refers to communication that relies on the power or status of the speaker to pressure or convince another. either publicly or privately. we will help you develop cooperative alternatives to specific conflict-provoking language. © Robert Bacal.” would fit here. Even if a person has that power or status to wield. we are going to explain these further. and in the chapter after that. words and phrases that have a heavy emotional connotation. Other Sources In addition to these elements.” to try to intimidate a person into accepting what they have to say. people tend to resist communication. argue.
1998 Page 21 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section III A Brief Conflict-Provoking Communication Self-Assessment © Robert Bacal.
and doesn’t compare you to anyone else or a standard of behaviour. You needn’t have used the EXACT phrase to check off the yes option. during the past week (yes or no). it’s a good idea to think about and reflect upon your own ways of communicating. If you have used something close to the particular phrase in intent. or a similar one. After you have completed the instrument read the section following it for an explanation. or wording. The second asks you if you have used that particular statement. less effective ways. It’s only for you. during the last month (again.A Brief Conflict-Provoking Communication Self-Assessment Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Since this book is designed to help you move towards using more cooperative methods of communicating and behaving. On the following page you will find a brief self-assessment instrument to help you think about and reflect upon how you communicate. The first step in identifying what you might want to change is to become more aware of what you do now. then target certain communication approaches. Since the purpose is to stimulate your thinking about yourself. © Robert Bacal. or a similar one. The first contains examples of communication statements or methods. yes or no). Instructions The instrument is composed of three columns. then choose YES. 1998 Page 22 . the instrument isn’t meant to provide a scientific diagnosis of how you communicate. The third column asks you if you have used the particular statement. tone. and learn how to replace the older.
.. This is the only way to do it right. I couldn't possibly have misplaced the report.... continued next page © Robert Bacal. Why in the world would you say that? What makes you think that. I'm sure we can all get along here..have you? The is the worst run team I've ever seen. I can't believe you're making a fuss about this. You'll do fine. are you? Have you even read the report? Who are you to tell me that. I work so hard and you don't seem to appreciate it.? We tried that before and it didn't work. Photocopy this and give me a copy. You didn't get your report in on time.? How in the world did you come to that conclusion? Are you SURE that you will have this in on time? I've heard that before! Whatever.. I guess you don't care about this project. If you really cared about this team. It's your fault we are in this mess. 1998 Page 23 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Conflict-Provoking Communication Self-Assessment Communication Statement Or Behaviour Used In Last Week? Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Used In Last Month? Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No You aren't listening... folks. Come on. I've read all the research on this. I'm sure things will work out for the best. Things are rough now but we'll get a handle on it. you'll see.. You must have lost it.. you would. If you had done what you are supposed to do we wouldn't be in this position..
Heavy sighing while someone is talking. Shaking of head while someone is talking.. lighten up. That has nothing to do with what we are talking about. Please don't take this personally. I hope you aren't offended by what I am going to say.. 1998 Page 24 . If you paid attention you would. You aren't going to get much help if you insult me... Negatively commenting on team members/colleagues while they are absent. raising of voice.. Dramatic behaviour (desk pounding. etc) Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No © Robert Bacal... Interupting someone before they are finished talking. but. You can do whatever you like. You need to relax.. Hey. There's nothing I can do.. but.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Conflict-Provoking Communication Self-Assessment (Page 2) Communication Statement Or Behaviour Used In Last Week? Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Used In Last Month? This is the most important issue we have ever faced. I'm not angry (when you clearly are). I was only joking. I don't care whether.
you probably contribute to generating conflict situations. And like most of us. and use them infrequently.Making Sense of The Self-Assessment If you are like most people. you have used some. you might want to note that you DO use these kinds of statements. and those around you.. if you habitually use a number of the techniques or phrases. We all do. Regardless of how often you use conflict-generating language. 1998 Page 25 . we will explain them and the problems they can cause later in the book. it is fairly likely that you are creating conflict trouble for yourself. as most of us do. However. Don’t be concerned if you use some of the behaviours/statements. If it isn’t clear to you why any of the items on the list could be problematic. you will find that you can always improve by replacing them with more cooperative ways of expressing yourself. unintentionally through the use of conflict-provoking language or behaviour. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace © Robert Bacal.. For now. if not most of the statements and behaviours listed in the self-assessment. They won’t always be problematic.obviously the setting and context you use them in is important. It may or may not be immediately obvious to you that all of these statements or behaviours can contribute to generating unnecessary conflict in the workplace.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section IV Specific Conflict-Provoking Behaviours Person Centred Comments & Criticism Past Centred Comments Guilt-Induction Attempts Blaming Comments Inappropriate Reassurance and Positive Thinking Unsolicited Advice/Commands Lengthy Attempts At Persuasion Defensiveness-Causing Questions Extended Attempts To Win Mistrust Statements Overstatements and Over-generalizations Infallibility Comments (and qualification comments) Histrionic Behaviour (Overdramatization) Use Of Hot Phrases and Words Use of Code Words and Innuendo Passive-Aggressive Behaviour © Robert Bacal. 1998 Page 26 .
. 1998 Page 27 . motives. It’s important to understand that conflict-provoking communication is communication that doesn’t work very well.. One more point..Conflict-Provoking Behaviours In the last chapter we talked somewhat generally about the kinds of things that tend to provoke conflict.and that we all use it.it’s that common... expertise. In the next chapter we will help you develop replacements for these conflict-provoking behaviours.. you are going to provoke conflict regardless. but if you use conflict-provoking methods. even if © Robert Bacal. When you make comments about a person’s conduct.. I can say with considerable confidence that you have used some of these within the last week. Here’s the list of behaviours we are going to talk about: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • person centred comments and criticism past centred comments guilt-induction blaming comments inappropriate reassurance inappropriate positive thinking unasked for advice and commands lengthy attempts at persuasion defensiveness causing questions extended attempts to “win” mistrust statements overstatements and over-generalizations infallibility comments (and qualification comments) histrionic behaviour use of hot phrases and words use of code words Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Person Centred Comments & Criticism There are several ways to deal with an issue in the workplace. phrases and sentence constructions to avoid.when we are talking about preventing conflict and building better relationships your INTENTIONS aren’t the issue. In this chapter we are going to go into more detail. so you will know exactly what words. Before we go through the list keep in mind conflict-provoking behaviours are used by just about everyone sometimes. or you can shift the conversation to the personal characteristics. You may have the best of intentions. expertise..well human.. That doesn’t make you a poor communicator or a bad person.it makes you. (usually negative) you shift the situation to an attack/defend one.. etc. and conduct of the other person. You can talk about the issue...that’s it. mean no malice whatsoever..
Examples: Conflict Prevention In The Workplace n n n n “You aren’t listening” (one of the best ways to get someone to really not listen) “You don’t know what you are talking about” “Who are you to tell me” “Can’t you just be quiet for a minute?” Note that this isn’t really a question but a tricky way of asking someone to shut up) n “Have you even read the report?” (another you statement dressed up in a question) All of these are examples of person centred comments and criticism. or even if you try to soften the blow by saying something like “Please don’t take this personally but. or the issue at hand. or changing. You may not intend to create a conflict but the use of person-centred comments is almost guaranteed to start arguments. the outcome is going to be a heated discussion with a whole lot of energy wasted. 1998 Page 28 . and spend time hashing and rehashing what has happened. simply because it can’t be changed. Harping on the past makes people angry since it appears that you are intentionally trying to block any progress and causing people to spin their wheels. If you use past-centred comments. While guilt induction attempts are usually subtle.a double whammy) Guilt-Induction Attempts People tend to resist attempts by others to manipulate their emotions and feelings. or prominent in the comment. Even if they ARE guilty. but more than likely the person will mobilize their defences and fight back.that isn’t what you intended to do. © Robert Bacal.. something that is beyond all of our control. make no mistake--the other person will know exactly what you are trying to do if you use them. often an attempt to shame them into going along. We’ve all run into people that seem to live life through their rear view mirror. Guiltinduction attempts are efforts to make someone feel guilty or “less than”... you are likely to create frustration in others. Most person centred comments contain the word “YOU” as the subject. It might even work now and again. Some workplace examples: n “We tried that before and it didn’t work” n “Why can’t we do it the old way? ” n “You didn’t get your report in on time” (note that this combines a past-centred comment with a person-centred one. Past Centred Comments Past-centred comments are comments that focus on what has happened in the past rather than focusing on what is happening at the moment. Regardless of your intent.
If you recall. Ted. Ted has been demoted and is clearly upset. as a result of corporate restructuring. in an attempt to smooth over issues and cool feelings. This is an important distinction. Some conflict-provoking communication is problematic not because it is confrontational but because it shows that one person is “out of touch” with the ideas. 1998 Page 29 .. but it allows everyone to try to shift responsibility for messes and to do nothing to prevent them in the future. By their nature. Because of the way blaming comments are phrased. even when it is clear that things aren’t going to turn out right. Not only is blaming inflammatory.it isn’t that bad”. but focus on finding someone to blame for the problem. Examples of blaming comments include: n “It’s your fault we are in this mess” n “If you had done what you were supposed to we wouldn’t be having this discussion” n “I can’t believe you are causing all this trouble” Inappropriate Reassurance and Positive Thinking The conflict-provoking behaviours we have outlined above tend to directly encourage confrontation. Mary. For example. in an earlier chapter we mentioned that some people will do anything they can to sweep conflict under the rug. they are also person-centred. a co-worker. or situation of the other person. They are reassurances that things will turn out right. Inappropriate reassurance comments are often used by conflict avoiders. and by doing so. create exactly what they don’t want-more conflict. feels uncomfortable with Ted’s distress and in an attempt to help says: “I’m sure things will turn out for the best. feelings.Some examples of guilt-inducing attempts: n n n n “If you really cared about this team you would work harder” “Most of us are trying really hard to make this work” “I guess you don’t care much about this project” “I work so hard and you don’t seem to appreciate it” Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Blaming Comments Blaming comments are about finger-pointing and trying to affix blame for something that has happened in the past or is happening at the moment. © Robert Bacal. they are clearly not oriented towards solving a problem.
Mary contributes to Ted’s frustration. People who feel misunderstood get angry and frustrated and tend to strike out. where both parties understand that one person is in a position to offer advice. n “You’ll do fine. there is a particular language form that is almost always a problem. Some reassurance can be good. or inconsistent with the experience of the other person. proves to Ted that she doesn’t understand what Ted is experiencing. etc. So rather than making things better. In grammar we call this form the imperative form. Ted’s perception is that the situation is terrible. Mary’s comment. That’s not a problem when a person asks for suggestions. Examples: n “You MUST do it this way” © Robert Bacal. The advice may be well intended but attempts to “help” can make situations worse. when the person receiving advice hasn’t asked for it. you’ll see” We should note that what makes reassurance INAPPROPRIATE is that it is inconsistent with the evidence available. even. The reason is that giving advice unsolicited gives the impression that we are “more than” and the person we are advising is “less than”. but somehow. sometimes when they know the advice is good advice. and doesn’t want it.. right? Well it might be just what Ted needs to hear. but that’s unlikely. Other examples of inappropriate reassurance: n “I know this project is late. Unsolicited Advice/Commands A common way many people create conflict is through the use of advice giving. or in normal language. or when the relationship is clearly one of mentor-student. we set up a situation where the person being commanded may seek to resist. Apart from giving unsolicited advice. but we’ll catch up” (when there is no reason to think this will be the case) n “Things are rough now but we’ll get a handle on it” (again when there is no evidence that the handle will be found) n “I know you feel you don’t know how to do this. or doctor-patient. 1998 Page 30 . but not if it is used in a way that suggests you aren’t understanding the other person’s feelings and situation. a command. while well intended. Mary is liable to be “rewarded” for her poorly thought out reassurance with angry words from Ted. When we give commands to other people. and people will fight to retain their sense of independence by resisting unsolicited advice.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Sounds good. you’ll figure it out”. Unsolicited advice is often seen as patronizing.
© Robert Bacal. Often what distinguishes a bad question from a good one is the actual phrasing since some forms of questions almost always sound confrontational. if you find yourself using a number of persuasive techniques over a period of time (emotional appeals.?” “How in the world did you come to that conclusion?” Questions beginning with “why” are almost always conflict-provoking. However. logical arguments. at some point attempts at persuasion.. not all questions are cooperative. Even law enforcement officers have found that commands are not always the best form of communication to start with. Lengthy Attempts At Persuasion When we feel strongly about a position or idea. commands coming from a police officer may be more acceptable than from a ten year old child. you are probably doing more harm than good. and face someone with a differing opinion. People resist that. 1998 Page 31 .some are damned confrontational.. etc. there is a tendency to try to persuade the other person to see it our way. if they go on too long. That is. or selling. So. appeals to authority). are perceived as pressure. These approaches are likely to stop people from hearing you because they perceive you as wanting to persuade them “too hard”. Defensiveness-causing questions “push” the other person to justify or defend their positions. It’s normal to do this. Examples: n n n n “Why in the world would you say that?” “Would you be so kind as to defend your position?” “What makes you think that.. or simply trying to get one’s own way. However. reams of facts. they are “less than”.n “Photocopy this and give me a copy” n “This is the ONLY way to do it right” n “Get this done today and on my desk” Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Commands and advice are somewhat context-bound. and the process can be healthy.. or imply that somehow. Defensiveness-Causing Questions In the next section when we discuss how to replace conflict-provoking communication with cooperative communication we will talk about the use of questions as a means of softening the way we say things..
other people start to see this as unreasonable. or in “counterattacking mode” where they strike back. so long as the problem gets solved. Kitchen-sinking is characterized by throwing in everything one can find that might support one’s favourite position. people recognize kitchen-sinking for what it is--a transparent attempt to win. It’s reasonable to present one’s ideas as forcefully as possible (within the limits of politeness) but when one carries on the attempt to win. and begin to act as if they want to win. One thing to keep in mind regarding mistrust statements is that even people with terrible track records who don’t really deserve trust don’t like to be told the truth. or motivated by a hidden agenda. The major reason it mobilizes resistance and causes messages to go unheard is that almost always the use of generalizations is wrong. People lapse into this kind of conflict-producing approach when they lose focus. The real focus in workplace communication should be the solving of problems. One particular technique that characterizes “winning attempts” is kitchen-sinking.Extended Attempts To Win This is very similar to the use of excessive persuasion. blunt manner. or poke holes in the posi© Robert Bacal. at least in an open. Unfortunately. and usually contain words like “always”. and the other person to lose.” (Notice that the mistrust is implied) Overstatements and Overgeneralization Blatant generalizations are essentially “overstatements” or exaggerations. and it shouldn’t matter whose ideas “win”. or lack confidence in their ability. each and every time? When a speaker uses generalizations or overstatements. After all. rather than throw everything in one can think of. “every time”. 1998 Page 32 . what really occurs every time. etc. or selfish. The psychology of this is rather interesting. integrity or behaviour. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Mistrust Statements Mistrust statements are comments or questions that suggest to the other person that you mistrust them. whether something is true or not has little relationship to the reaction one gets when ones uses the language. As with many aspects of conflict-provoking language. Some examples of distrust statements: n “Are you SURE (strong verbal emphasis) that you will have this in on time?” n “I’ve heard that before. Mistrust statements tend to put the other person in “defensive” mode where they attempt to persuade you that they are worth your trust. It’s actually better to order one’s points and touch on the most important ones. “never”. listeners tend to look for ways to attack the “always” position.
saying: “You know. More commonly. is quite likely to start an argument about whether there is an argument “every time”. The result is people get frustrated. and whose fault it might be if it’s true and on and on. banging on the table or similar expressions of frustration. Extreme examples would include crying. what about the following statement said in a team meeting: “We always get lost talking nonsense at these meetings”.” (note the use of the absolute “never”) n “I couldn’t possibly have misplaced the report. Blatant generalizations are particularly lethal when aimed at a particular person. crying in response to a minor change of work assignment will create discomfort and sometimes anger in others. When people believe that a speaker is arrogant. have you?” Histrionic Behaviour (Overdramatization) Histrionic behaviour refers to the expression of relatively extreme forms of emotion. For example. People get this impression of self-infallibility in a number of ways. when the histrionic behaviour © Robert Bacal. “overselling” an idea may give that impression. This is likely to start a spirited. Or. First. every time I talk to you. you argue with me”. “high and mighty” or believes in their own infallibility. For example: n “That’s the way it is”. 1998 Page 33 . You must have lost it.” (note the use of the blaming component) n “I’ve read all the literature on this. n “I never make mistakes like that. What is and isn’t appropriate will depend on the context. and even the culture and background of the speaker and observer. they aren’t listening any more as they prepare to present THEIR counter-argument. They stop listening and gather their resources to attack the “perfect person”. and accepted by most people. particularly when the apparent cause of the outburst seems less than serious. probably anger tinged debate about whether it is true. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Infallibility Comments (and qualification comments) Infallibility comments are questions or statements that sound as if the speaker believes s/ he couldn’t possibly be wrong. people perceived this way tend to use language that encourages the perception.tion. However. there is a tendency to try and bring that person “down a peg”. While they are doing that. For example. There are several problems with histrionic behaviour. For example. crying in response to a tragic event would be a reaction understood by.
. They have the effect of preventing the other person from being able to hear you. Or.. The “hotness” of a phrase will often depend on cultural backgrounds--for example there are phrases and words in Japanese that would not offend a North American if they were translated directly. when an office is untidy may be guilty of overdramatization. and because they have an emotional effect.. Use Of Hot Phrases and Words Hot words and phrases are bits of language that have a high degree of emotional meaning to people. Hot words escalate conflict if it exists. someone who says: “This issue is the most important one this organization has ever faced. What will the other person hear and how will they perceive you? In all likelihood the other person will get “stuck” on the phrase “I don’t care”. Sometimes they will interpret the behaviour as being intentionally manipulative. The same principles apply to most hot phrases. Regardless of whether we are talking about overly emotional outbursts or the use of verbal over-dramatization. 1998 Page 34 . and contribute to starting conflict.. observers tend to disbelieve that the minor occurrence is the real cause. listeners will tend to resist. Overdramatization need not be in the form of an emotional outburst. because they haven’t heard the rest of the sentence. people are often uncomfortable with extreme expressions of negative feelings such as sadness. They are probably the most difficult to identify completely because what is “hot” to one person may not be”hot” to another. They may hear “I don’t care blah blah blah wallawalla bingbang” and conclude that you don’t care. For example. and NOT hear what follows. and will become hostile. argue and exhibit negative reactions.what I want to do is find out what we can do to fix it right now. tends not to hear what else you say. they may strike back. “Whatever” and I don’t care.. There is no way that you can use either of these and sound cooperative and helpful.”. What happens is that the other person hears these words. a manager who says: “This place is a pigpen. and we will all lose or jobs if. frustration and anger.” may also be overdramatizing. For example: I don’t care why this project has gone awry. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Second. When people are uncomfortable or fearful. Think about the effects of two common hot phrases.appears to be caused by some minor occurrence.. © Robert Bacal.
. I don’t want to hear about your. My supervisor is just going to say the same thing. etc.. discrimination. you would Why don’t you listen You don’t know anything about.. Phrases that have a threatening undertone n n If you don’t be quiet I will throw you out. There’s nothing you can do. Ukrainian) Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Other words related to unequal treatment (racist. Phrases that blame or imply blame or suggest ignorance n n n n If you paid attention. Phrases that challenge or dare n n n © Robert Bacal. bias.. race) Words or phrases that suggest disinterest: n n n n n n whatever I don’t care I don’t give a damn This has nothing to do with.... bigoted.. I’m not interested in. (Black... Obviously. You aren’t going to get much help if you insult me.. Absolute words n n always never Phrases that suggest helplessness (brushoffs) n n n There’s nothing I can do. you haven’t. 1998 Go ahead and try to get me fired You can do whatever you like. I’ve tried everything. Chinese.Examples: Any references to specific ethnic backgrounds or race.. colour. Page 35 .
without actually using negative words. Innuendo and codes words are used by manipulative people. and if you use them . but not so good about Jack. Innuendo is similar because it says something negative without saying it. usually negative. there’s no problem” (when clearly there is) End of Chapter Comments We’ve outlined some ways of communicating that tend to provoke conflict or act as © Robert Bacal. passive-aggressive behaviour is more inclusive and may include a range of nonverbal behaviour (sighing. 1998 Page 36 . etc. so anger can be denied. you know how Jack is” can be problematic because it implies something unclear. twiddling. Examples: n “Why would you think I would be angry at being screwed?” n “No.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Use of Code Words and Innuendo Code words or code phrases are ways of expressing things. no. The purpose of passive-aggressive behaviour is to express anger without having to be responsible for that anger. a manipulative technique that sparks both conflict and poor communication since there is so much room for misunderstanding. Passive-aggressive behaviour is frustrating for people who have to deal with it because the person using it is not willing to actually deal with whatever is bothering them. However. Passive-Aggressive Behaviour Passive-aggressive behaviour is the term used to describe behaviour that is passive in expression but is aggressive or malicious in intent. It doesn’t say which “those” the person happens to be but there is little doubt that the phrase has a negative meaning. but would prefer to play guerilla-warfare by pecking at others in oblique ways. rolling of eyes. Even a phrase as benign sounding as “Well. Strictly speaking the use of innuendo and code words are part of passive-aggressive behaviour.). For example the phrase “He’s one of those” is an example. you may be perceived as such a person. Individual workplaces may have their own specific code words that have negative meanings.
gasoline to an existing fire. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Yes. © Robert Bacal. As you will see. and more likely to get problems solved. As you went through these communication tactics and examples. you might have developed a false sense that the alternative to the use of these expressions is to keep one’s mouth shut and just not deal with situations where the truth must be told. sometimes you may be working with a team member who isn’t holding up their end. a helper or a shirker. Keeping silent isn’t the solution. and a conflict preventor rather than a conflict starter. 1998 Page 37 . or is unreliable. It doesn’t do the team any good if there is a problem like that that remains unresolved. what to do? In the next chapter we will be talking about how to replace conflict provoking communication with communication that is more likely to be heard. That’s not the case. So. or lacking knowledge. The way you put things is going to determine whether you are seen as a help or a hindrance. the key is in the phrasing. It doesn’t do you any good since you are likely to get angrier and angrier.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section V Replacing Conflict Provoking Communication With Cooperative Communication © Robert Bacal. 1998 Page 38 .
1998 Page 39 . and often create defensiveness or aggressiveness. It’s possible”. Cooperative Communication Review • • • • • • • • focuses on fixing problems. offer alternatives to it.” If you feel a person isn’t informed as to the issues. communicates speaker recognizes s/he could be wrong allows face saving out for others excludes non-responsiveness follows rules of the road for communication avoids person labelling and person-centred focus Replacement Strategies Replacing Person-Centred Phrases Person centred phrases shift the focus away from problem-solving to the other person. Before we do that let’s run through the basics of cooperative communication. “Can’t you just be quiet for a minute” and “Have you even read the report?” Replacement Possibilities Move away from the person.. “Who are you to tell me. and create unnecessary conflict situations. it’s time to look at how we can replace those ways of communicating with phrasing and language that are more likely to help people work with us and not against us. etc. not finding the person to blame leaves the past behind and emphasizes present and future includes qualifiers such as “It might be”. If a person doesn’t appear to be listening. and towards an approach that is more directly related to the issue. “You don’t know what you are talking about”.Replacing Conflict Provoking Communication With Cooperative Communication Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Now that we have gone over the kinds of language and communication that create anger in others. make a suggestion rather than an accusation in the form of a person-centred phrase: For example: It would really help me I could finish. try this: “Perhaps you haven’t had a © Robert Bacal. “Perhaps”. They are characterized by the use of YOU as a major part of the phrase. and explain why the cooperative alternatives are “better”. Examples include “You aren’t listening”. We are going to go through each type of conflict provoking behaviour. and then I’d like to hear your ideas..”.
“You didn’t get your report in on time”.chance to read such and such. 1998 Page 40 . rather than saying: “I tried that and it’s a waste of time”. If you need to make a comment about someone’s conduct. and phrase it in a way that invites the other person to work with you to solve a problem.”. not the one in the past. I’d like another chance to explain what I meant. Examples include: “I tried that and it’s a waste of time”. never. This is a language flag for a personal attack.. Past-Centred Comments Past-centred comments are comments about what has happened in the past.” Compare this with “You didn’t listen to me the other day”. Often past centred comments take the form of blaming statements. or perhaps not explaining things well. It’s non-accusatory. Second. I would really like to talk to you to see if we can work something out. Would you like me to give you a copy?” Notice the use of perhaps (this allows face-saving) the tone of helpfulness. here is another more cooperative way to do it: “Something has been on my mind about [the issue] and I’m a bit uncomfortable bringing it up. For example: “When we were talking the other day I felt that I wasn’t being heard. and giving the person the choice of looking at new information. behaviour or approach. you approach it using I statements rather than accusatory. person-centred comments. ever preface a comment with “Don’t take this personally but.. If the person agrees to talk about it. For example. The cooperative alternative opens the door for understanding and dialogue and focuses on the problem in front of you NOW. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Avoid using questions to make points. People are too smart to not realize that you are making a personal comment when you say: “Have you even read the report?”. Replacement Possibilities: The past can be important to address so long as you address it for the purpose of problemsolving in the present or the future. The conflict-provoking response closes the door for discussion and is negative and suggests sureness. Is there something different about this situation now that would make it worthwhile to try it again?” Notice the difference. You START with yourself. Is now a good time?” Note the difference. © Robert Bacal. look at this alternative: “I remember trying that approach and it just didn’t work well for me. and about events that are unchangeable. “We tried that and it didn’t work”.
so if you would like me to show you. and you offer to remedy the situation for him/her. please let me know”. Is that possible? © Robert Bacal. Also the expression indicates a shared responsibility and a willingness to help. Guilt-Induction Attempts Guilt-induction techniques are phrases that try to make someone else feel bad or feel guilty. If you feel compelled to bring up such issues as someone’s commitment to the team. if you feel unappreciated by the boss. That meant that. then you are going to create conflict. It is useful to ask yourself whether there is any constructive point in broaching these kinds of subjects. I had to go ahead and do [whatever] without having the information. and I would like to talk about that with you. but you should be aware that the issue of commitment and effort is a difficult one and has to be handled with great delicacy. and the focus on what is past. rather than trying to show someone else up. This statement takes responsibility for the situation. this might be a way to approach the situation. For example..” and “I work so hard and you don’t seem to appreciate it”. you would work harder”. “Sometimes I forget to let you know what I’m doing on this. 1998 Page 41 . They are almost always a recipe for disaster.. If your intent is to make someone feel guilty. What can I do to help?” What we have done is shift from the focus on YOU. “Most of us are trying really hard”. “If you really cared about this team.[fill in consequence]. to a focus on the SITUATION (or the problem). For example. and focus on prevention. “I guess you don’t care much about this project. since you take responsibility for the boss not knowing how hard you are working.” This is a more direct statement focusing on YOUR perceptions. or the amount of effort they are putting in or not putting in you could try something like: “Sometimes I feel that this project is more important to me than it is to you. “It would help me a lot in getting this done if you could find a bit of extra time to help me on this”. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace For example: “When I didn’t have the report on time. I’d like to work with you to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future.If you want to replace a statement like “You didn’t get the report in on time” there are lots of alternatives.
not you. indicating to her that she will “catch up somehow” is probably just not going to do anything but mark you as “out of touch”. to express that. If Marie is behind in her work and feeling very upset. Giving Unsolicited Advice/Commands Unsolicited advice. saying “Fred. When they are requested. and if you can’t understand the situation. It might take people some time to recognize your abilities. What is inappropriate and appropriate is determined by the perceptions of the OTHER person. having worked with you I know how good you are at [fill in]. although some people appreciate reassurance statements. 1998 Page 42 . Possible Replacements It’s better to offer help instead of assurances. it will all work out” is going to show that you DON’T understand the person’s position (even if you do). The key is to show that you are trying to understand. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Inappropriate Reassurance & Positive Thinking Inappropriate reassurance and positive thinking are statements that gloss over something that is worrying or concerning the other person by indicating that it will all turn out for the best. For example: “I’m worried too about being late. When they are NOT solicited. trying to help. but if I can help in any way. And I’d like to help. but my experience is people like you find a way to make it work. If a project is late. they are perceived as the giver feeling superior © Robert Bacal. That is likely to make Fred angry. For example: “I’ve never had to go through what you are going through Fred. For example: “You know. be specific rather than general. What can we do to get us back on to schedule?” Note the focus on fixing a problem (to whatever extent is possible). please let me know”. focus on addressing the problem rather than offering empty (to the other person) reassurance. they are less likely to cause conflict.A more direct request for help is much more likely to encourage someone to help compared to accusing them of something or trying to make them feel guilty. and feels overwhelmed by the situation and hasn’t had a chance to adjust to it. suggestions and commands are statements that essentially TELL a person what they should be doing. If a person is being laid off. Fred. if there is anything I can do”. If you want to reassure someone in a difficult situation.
If I were in your shoes. etc. I would probably try to leave it behind. but you know. We’ve changed the phrase from a command to a mild. Lengthy Attempts At Persuasion/Extended Attempts At Winning Lengthy attempts at persuasion occur when you try to convince the other person that they should adopt your perspective. There is nothing wrong with trying to influence people. Rather than “Photocopy this and give me a copy”. In this category we include the following examples. and you are acknowledging the person’s concerns without belittling them. So it is important to © Robert Bacal. n “Just forget about it. Do you have time to photocopy it?” Here we move from giving an order to showing consideration. 1998 Page 43 . The tone of the above is helpful and has no hint of coercion. or coercion. acknowledging that the other person is also very busy (even if they aren’t).(and the receiver inferior or “less than”). One could replace the “Just forget about it. have to. must. It isn’t a big deal” [note the combined command/reassurance statement] Possible Replacements The general rule when giving suggestions or advice is to remove any words that imply power or coercion. n “Photocopy this and give me a copy” n “This is the only way to do it right”. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace n “You MUST do it this way or it won’t work”. We can still make suggestions and give advice but in a way that is more likely to be heard. regardless of the intent of the speaker. like should. It isn’t a big deal” with something that sounds far more understanding and sympathetic. It opens the door for problem solving if the person can’t do what you are asking. you can try: “It would really help if I had a copy as soon as possible. helpful suggestion phrased in the INTEREST of the other person. and that it is not an attempt to overwhelm the other person with data. not giving suggestions or advice. Rather than “You must do it this way”. you could try: “You might find it might be easier for you if you try to [insert specific]. provided it is balanced by leaving room for them to also influence you. I don’t even know if I could”. Notice here that you are speaking for yourself. For example: “It looks like you are upset about this.
?” n “How did you come to that conclusion?” Possible Replacements Soften the questions as follows: “I’m not sure I understand your position. then it is likely that you risk alienating the other person and actually driving the person away from your position. don’t lecture.. Also. Could you explain a bit more? Here the speaker takes on the responsibility for creating understanding. Leading questions are also a problem. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Possible Replacements The best way to persuade and remain within the bounds of cooperativeness is to limit your arguments to your BEST ones. when engaging in persuasive conversation. Intersperse your comments with questions and pauses (see section below) to help create a dialogue with the other person. Build bridges so you can both listen to each other. sustained attempts to persuade.avoid long.. present both sides (the for side and the against side). However. Examples of questions that can cause defensiveness n “Why in the world would you say that?” n “Would you be so kind as to defend your position?” n “What makes you think that. particularly the WHY question tend to put people on the defensive regardless of the speaker’s intent. An unbalanced onslaught of persuasion turns people off. When you find yourself repeating your arguments. and ones that are based on the needs of the other person. Defensiveness-Causing Questions Questions are a great tool for creating dialogue and understanding. and requests some © Robert Bacal. Sometimes the best way to persuade is to listen. As soon as you decide to “kitchen-sink” (throw everything into the persuasion attempt) you actually lose credibility and decrease the ability of the person to hear you and your key points.. if they are used to manipulate or corner others. they stop listening and marshal their arguments to “fight back”. they increase the chance of unnecessary conflict. That means you have to understand their point of view on the issue. and you need to listen. Finally. They need to talk. also.. and express their opinions to you. especially in persuasive communication. Even a question like “What makes you think. Some forms of questions.” can be problematic. 1998 Page 44 .
if you need to replace Are you really going to keep your promise this time?.” Replacing “Should I repeat this for the fourth time?!” is easy and follows a similar pattern. limited. Examples of mistrust statements include: n Are you really going to keep your promise this time? (a question) n I doubt that you are able to get this done on time (a statement). or “justify” or “prove”. One option: Sometimes I’m not always clear when I try to explain something. If it helps I can try to explain it another way. and stick with the issue allow face-saving for the other person (build it in) For example. imply or hint that the speaker sees the other person as unreliable. so if there is anything I can do to help. and situations where the person is reliable. Mistrust Statements Mistrust statements (or questions) are phrases that suggest. Notice we stay away from the use of the words “defend”. indicating that we really want to understand them.” This would also apply to the example: “I doubt that you are able to get this done on time. stupid or otherwise “less than”. The power of mistrust statements to generate conflict extends over situations where the person IS in fact unreliable or untrustworthy. rather than to use our knowledge of their position as a point of attack. In either case the likely responses are defensiveness or aggression. What we’ve done here is take responsibility © Robert Bacal. Could you explain why you think X might be a better way to go than Y?” Conflict Prevention In The Workplace In this replacement phrasing we are inviting the other person to present their arguments. That helps the person see us as on the same side. offer assistance in a face-saving way. please let me know. incompetent. like: “It would be a challenge for anyone to get this done on time.help. 1998 Page 45 . “I’m not sure I agree with you but I want to understand your position. n Make sure you are on time this time (a command) n Should I repeat this for the fourth time?! (inference of stupidity) n I’ll be back to check to see if you kept your promise (mistrust + implied threat) Possible Replacements The keys to replacing mistrust statements include: • • • • • make your comment helpful. and offer assistance (rather than shove it on someone) offer an observation in a way that suggests you know you could be incorrect take responsibility for your own perception (Use I statements) avoid accusatory you-centred or people-centred statements.
since they are so black and white. “This project is really important. Here’s another possible replacement--one that could be used by a supervisor or manager who has a legitimate concern about getting a project finished on time. true every time. The first is to avoid the use of words that are absolute or make things black and white (particularly when there are shades of grey). © Robert Bacal. etc. since if we don’t finish on time.for the difficulty in understanding. if they indeed. our customers are going to be really angry [or other consequence]. You and I need to ensure we have a plan to make sure we can finish by April 18. but on the issue. absolute statement) n Every time we meet we get caught up in trivialities. The second key. “probably”. Examples of overstatements include: n You never finish on time (a person centred. This phrasing places the supervisor in the position of partner rather than boss. is to use “softener” words or qualifiers such as “might”. 1998 Page 46 . and allowing a face saving “out” for the person. “could be”. Another problem with these kinds of statements is that they make the speaker appear to be a “know it all”. while avoiding sending a “less than” message. “may be”. or never true. Possible Replacements There are two keys to avoiding these kinds of statements and the problems. don’t understand. “it’s possible”. These words reflect the real complexity and shades of grey in our world. so let’s put our heads together. This encourages the staff member to work with the supervisor and helps avoid arguments about who is to blame. Overstatements & Overgeneralizations Overstatements and overgeneralizations are characterized by the use of the words: Conflict Prevention In The Workplace n all n always n never n every time They are problematic because the listener/other person knows that almost nothing is always true. which is very important.” In this replacement we haven’t focused on the employee per se. which is getting the project finished. and portray the speaker as a person who is open to discussion of alternate views. That encourages the person to argue the point. n Our department never loses applications. n This has never worked before (also a focus on the unchangable past) n Don’t you think this is always a problem (“always” coupled with a defensiveness provoking leading question.
rather than sounding like an absolute pronouncement. we avoid the use of absolute sounding statements.” we could go with: Sometimes we seem to get lost in our discussions on this issue. That is. not on your status. Using qualifications. power or status. Infallibility & Status/Qualifications Statements Infallibility and status/qualification statements indicate to the other person that the speaker feels they couldn’t possibly be wrong OR. Infallibility statements or questions tend to portray the speaker as arrogant and uninterested in the views of others. n Who do you think runs this place? n I’ve been here for ten years--you new guys are just getting your feet wet. a violation of the use of absolutes or overgeneralizations). It’s important to keep in mind that many people aren’t impressed with status and qualifications. though. In this replacement we have used the words “sometimes” and “perhaps” instead of “everytime” and focused back on the issue at hand. Your position should stand on its merits. If we want to replace “Every time we meet we get caught up in trivialities. the other person becomes defensive or mounts an attack. their opinions should win the day because the speaker. people who don’t share your view will tend to react to them in attacking ways. Perhaps we could try to stay on the topic to solve the problem. Does anyone remember what happened?” Here we are less absolute (“something like this”) and suggest that this might be something for discussion.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Before we look at replacement examples. 1998 Page 47 . Example include: n I’m absolutely sure that I haven’t made a mistake. © Robert Bacal. We could replace “This has never worked before. n I couldn’t possible be wrong on this one. Even then. and use softeners or qualifiers. keep mind that the use of absolute words may have a place if your purpose is to motivate or support or when you want to portray a sense of strong commitment.” with “I remember we tried something like this a few years back and recall it didn’t work out very well. n Do you have a degree in this topic? (a question re: qualifications) n I’ve studied this for ten years and read all the research (note the use of “all”. In either case. It opens the door for discussion because of the question at the end. somehow has better qualifications. Replacement Possibilities The techniques for replacing infallibility/status statements and questions are very similar to the ones we use with overstatements. power or status to buttress one’s position usually causes the other person to question the relevance of the qualifications or status to being “right”.
• Suggest leaving the issue that is upsetting you (for a short time. Examples of nonverbal histrionics are pounding on a table. Extreme expressions of emotions tend to make observers uncomfortable even when the reason for the emotion is in proportion. Could you help me understand by explaining a bit more? Here we stay away from the issue of the degree or qualifications. etc. but can includes other nonverbal communication such as heavy sighing. I’ve been here for a while and certainly have one perspective. swearing. crying. Histrionic Behaviour & Overdramatization Histrionic behaviour is the evil twin of overgeneralization but is slightly different. As such they less likely to be supportive. Histrionic behaviour is not always dramatic. Here are a few strategies to use when upset: • Take a time out to regroup and focus on being constructive. but it is a far better phrase than the original. not people or qualifications. Some people may find even the replacement a bit challenging. while sounding helpful and reasonable. or to intimidate. but perhaps some of the newer folks might have a fresh way of looking at this issue. If we want to replace: Do you have a degree in this topic? we might try something like: I’m not sure I understand how you got to your conclusion. but set another specific time to discuss it) © Robert Bacal. 1998 Page 48 . angry or sad. Let me check to make sure. Possible Replacements The issue here is self-control and learning what works for us when we are extremely upset. and anger (see also passive-aggressive behaviour) The difficulty with histrionic behaviour is that when it is perceived as out of proportion to the issue. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace To replace a statement like: I’ve been here for ten years--you new guys are just getting your feet wet. we changed something that would be perceived as an attack on the “new guys” to a positive by inviting them to be involved. Notice we have taken the element of infallibility out of the statement.If we want to replace the phrase: “I’m absolutely sure that I haven’t made a mistake. and keep the discussion to one of issues. In overgeneralization the speaker makes use of words like always and never. Histrionic behaviour is expression of emotion out of proportion to the issue at hand and is often conveyed non-verbally. we could try the following.” we could soften it by saying: I don’t usually lose files. and expressing a willingness to listen to others. but it’s possible I’ve mislaid it. Here. rolling of eyes and other behaviours that send a covert message of frustration. but not necessarily with a heavy dose of emotion. stalking out of the room. observers tend to see such expressions as manipulative or at least partly intended to garner sympathy. yelling.
but I can’t tell you about it”. • Avoid responding quickly (often the first response when upset or angry is the more “childlike” behaviour and is overblown). © Robert Bacal. Code words are words used to suggest something without saying it. (wink) Possible Replacements Conflict Prevention In The Workplace This kind of thing is fighting dirty and can cause incredible damage to teams. For example: “I heard something pretty interesting about John. then have the courage to take responsibility for the statement. They tend to inflame passions rather than cool hot situations off. The simple rule is DON’T DO IT. Use of Hot Phrases & Words Hot phrases and words have a high degree of emotional meaning for people. etc. If you feel you must comment about someone. he’s one of those”. that your emotional behaviour may cause difficulties for those around you. cowardly.• Slow your talking down (particularly when angry). Keep in mind there is a time and place to express strong emotions. That falls into abusive. manipulative behaviour. what do you expect. Upset. particularly if you are emotionally expressive. or use of terms like “the suits”. Some people are naturally more emotionally expressive than others. If you break into tears when your pencil breaks. Use of Code Words & Innuendo The use of code words and innuendo is particularly dangerous and damaging. but recognize. We have examples of hot words and phrases (and possible replacements) at the end of this chapter. That may sound a bit harsh but users of these tactics are trying to send messages about somebody without a willingness to take responsibility for those comments. in essence. Innuendo involves hinting at something negative with respect to a person without actually disclosing what it is. and there is nothing wrong with that. not information you learned through gossip or someone else’s innuendo. The issue is not so much expressing the emotion but expressing oneself in proportion to the issue. by making it specific. workgroups and other workplace relationships. • Work at learning ways to express your emotions (anger. angry people tend to talk more quickly and that contributes to tension and getting caught up in emotion. and by extension. eventually people are going to get tired of “the act” (which is how they will eventually perceive it). Make sure what you say is directly related to the issue. 1998 Page 49 . That’s because the reasons people use code words and innuendo are. such as” “Well.) using I statements that take responsibility for your own feelings. hurt. for you. and of things you know of directly. upset. and shy away from you.
We’ve already talked about some specific passive-aggressive techniques that are used (innuendo. and don’t hint at them. I was only joking when I called you a fat cow”. right? These techniques are really rather unsubtle blatant put-downs. hysterical. since the angry person refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem (at least in public). the humour justification). and maybe not so subtle messages is manipulative and perceived that way by the person who receives them. 1998 Page 50 .The Humour Justification When some people are upset or want to get a barb in at someone. take responsibility for your own feelings. Passive-Aggressive Behaviour Passive-aggressive behaviour is the term psychologists use to describe the ways some people use to communicate anger without actually expressing the anger in a forthright responsible way. and manipulative not only to the butt of your “joke”. The passive-aggressive person boxes other people in. Second. justifying their own negative comments about someone with comments like: “Hey. or even asking humour related questions like: “You’ve got to be kidding. but to anyone who hears you. Covert attempts such as the use of the humour do nothing but make it MORE difficult to address the problems that may be contributing to your anger. and if anything make you a target yourself. or use covert techniques for conveying them. lighten up”. consider totally eliminating the phrases included above. This invites further attack and aggression. or “Don’t get upset. Almost always these techniques allow the user to deny their true feelings. made under. A second variation of this is to characterize a conversation. they may make statements that can later be denied under the guise of humour. Possible Replacements © Robert Bacal. as with most of the members of the passive-aggressive behaviour family. again. Hence. and guarantees that everyone is bound to get more frustrated. point or suggestion made by someone else as a joke. The difficulty with these techniques is they are completely counterproductive in solving actual problems. can’t you take a joke”. The sending of these subtle. They brand you as cruel. non-verbals such as rolling of eyes and heavy sighing. people who use passive-aggressive techniques tend to promote discord and attract hostility themselves. the cowardly guise of humour (see passive-aggressive section). or even “Hey. Replacement Possibilities Conflict Prevention In The Workplace First.
In other words. we have included a short worksheet you can use (page 58) to list some of your own behaviours that you think might be problematic for others. don’t involve people who can’t stand you!. and find that your passive-aggressiveness interferes with your ability to get along with others. It’s probably not possible to draw up a complete list of conflict causing behaviours without leaving some out. You can complete it yourself. Some people use passive-aggressive behaviour because they are very uncomfortable with conflict and disagreement. but feel some need to express their negative emotions. To summarize this information. If you are like this. or solicit the help of a few trusted co-workers or spouses whose opinions and observations you are able to hear. Once you have a list of possible conflict-provoking behaviours you personally use. think about and write down some very specific alternatives that would be more constructive. 1998 Page 51 . but non-confrontational. constructive alternatives. and some hints as to how to go about replacing them with more positive. © Robert Bacal. it might not be a bad idea to seek out some counselling help to understand why you do such things. we have included a summary table of the conflict-provoking methods and how you can avoid them. and that are both direct. It might be that you use some conflict-provoking methods that we haven’t covered here. To help you do so. so it’s a good idea to examine that.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace The key to replacing passive-aggressive behaviour is to use statements that take responsibility for one’s feelings and reactions. End Of Chapter Comments In his chapter we have outlined many of the common ways that people cause conflict with others.
. Comments focusing on the past rather than solving a current. 1998 Page 52 . Focus on learning from the past rather than using it to blame. more direct way. Guilt induction is always inappropriate. Comments that attempt to create guilt in another person.Table 1 Summary of Conflict-Provoking Replacement Options Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Type of Behaviour Or Statement Examples To Be Replaced Replacements Options and Strategies Person-Centred Phrases You aren't listening You don't know what you are talking about Who are you to tell me Can't you just be quiet for a minute Stay focused on the issue. Allow person to save face by offering alternate explanations for their actions.continued on next page © Robert Bacal. present problem You didn't get your report in on time the LAST time Guilt Induction Techniques If you really cared about this team you would. Past Centred Comments I tried that and it's a waste of time Focus on current issues and not on past.. Comments that relate to characteristics of the person rather than related to the issue or problem being discussed. If you feel a need to express concerns. Most of us are trying really hard. Use questions. do so in an assertive. You don't appreciate how hard I work .. offer help. If necessary relate past to the present in a solution oriented way..
Support reassurance with options and explain reasons for your positive thinking. It would really help if I could get a a copy as soon as possible.it can't be that bad. don't worry about it. Allow face saving. Combine offers of help and support along with reassurance.. not commands or use questions. Kitchen-sinking and extended pressure placed on another person for the purposes of convincing them or getting them to give in.it's no big deal. Photocopy this and give me a copy.Type of Behaviour Or Statement Inappropriate Reasurrance & Positive Thinking Examples To Be Replaced Replacements Options and Strategies Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Somehow it will all work out. and use your most powerful arguments. bui if I can help in any way. . I've never had to go through what you are going through. Keep persuasion attempts short and to the point. Hey. Choose your spots... Unsolicited advice and commands place you in a superior position and the other in an inferior one. Do you have time to photocopy it? You might consider trying it another way... Offer options and choices. what the other person needs at that time. or are not seriously.. You're going about this all wrong. Respect the other person's right to be free of persistent pressure. Lengthy Attempts At Persuasion/Focus On Winning Perceived as pressure if you throw all kinds of arguments at someone and do so at length. Identify and empathize (show understanding) of how the other person is feeling. please let me know. 1998 Page 53 . Relax! Giving Unsolicited Advice/Commands You MUST do it this way or it won't work. Reassuring or positive comments that are not supported by existing Don't take it so information.continued on next page © Robert Bacal.
directly or indirectly indicate you don't trust the other person's ability. Focus on offering assistance rather than showing mistrust.Type of Behaviour Or Statement Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Examples To Be Replaced Replacements Options and Strategies Defensiveness Causing Questions Why in the world would you say that? Would you be so kind as to explain your position? Take clear responsibility for understanding. "may be" "sometimes". Questions used to corner someone. please let me know. Perhaps we could try to stay on topic to solve this problem? . Our department never loses applications. It would be difficult for anyone to get this done. Are you really going to keep your promise this time? Should I repeat this for the fourth time? I'll be back to check to see if you kept your promise. commitment.. Could conclusion? you explain how you think X might be better than Y? Mistrust Statements Statements or questions that. Sometimes we seem to get lost in our discussions. Allow face saving. "probably" etc. so if there is anything I can do to help. I'm not sure I understand your position. always.often those that require the person to defend themselves.. character. never. etc. Overstatements & Generalizations You never finish this on time. Every time we meet we get caught up in trivialities. 1998 Page 54 .. Could you What makes you think that? explain a bit more? How did you come to that I'm not sure I agree. Soften questions. every time and generalization Replace absolute words with "might". Use of all.continued on next page © Robert Bacal.. or put them on the spot.
Type of Behaviour Or Statement Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Examples To Be Replaced Replacements Options and Strategies Infallibility & Status/Qualifications Statements I'm absolutely sure I haven't made a mistake. Most instances of use of innuendo are not constructive (ie. personal attacks). I don't usually lose files. Don't do it...continued on next page © Robert Bacal. Statements showing you couldn't possibly be wrong or attempting to make your case using power. but it's possible I've mislayed it. particularly when it is way out of proportion to the issue. he's one of those. Soften infallibility statements as follows. Let me check. Do you have a degree on this topic? Your argument needs to stand on its merits. Alluding to negative things about someone without expressing them directly or taking responsibility for the accuracy of sneaky comments. I've been here for a while and have one perspective. Code Words & Innuendo Well what do you expect.. . I heard something pretty interesting about Jack.. and don't get involved (either creating or listening to gossip and innuendo from others). but I can't tell you. not authority. Histrionic Behaviour & Overdramatization Banging on desk Extreme non-verbals Expressions of emotions tht Shouting are out of context with the Crying situation Keep in mind that coworkers will be uncomfortable with extreme shows of emotion. or qualifications I've studied this for ten years and read ll the research. but perhaps some of the newer folks might have a fresh way of looking at this. Learn basic selfcontrol techniques. 1998 Page 55 .
. other non-verbals Why would I be upset..Type of Behaviour Or Statement Passive-Aggressive Behaviour Examples To Be Replaced Replacements Options and Strategies Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Heavy sighing. I was only teasing you ideas and take when I called you a fat responsibility for them. Have the courage to present your feelings and Hey. don't do it. A passiveaggressive behaviour As with all passiveaggressive behaviour.. rolling of eyes. and have summarized them and their possible replacements in Table 2 (next page).no problem. Tom. passive-aggressive behaviour won't get it done.. Behavior and language that expresses anger and frustration in a sneaky way that can be denied.just because you screwed me again? Hey. I'm used to being ignored. Replace by learning to express your emotions while staying oriented toward problem solving. and you will find that some of the examples overlap with confrontation-provoking examples we have already discussed.lighten up. Hey.. I was just joking. The list does not include all hot phrases and words. 1998 Page 56 . that's the most hilarious idea I've ever heard Hotword and Hot Phrase Replacements We have gathered some examples of hot words and phrases that tend to heat up conversations. If you want a problem solved. © Robert Bacal. Work at eliminating them from your behaviour. unpleasant behaviour dressed up in humor so the nasty intent can be denied. cow. Humour and Humour Justification Insults.
colour words. Replace with non-brush off statements. but let's see what we can figure out.." Replace with assertive limits and consequences phrased in a nonthreatening tone (see next section) Try replacing with: "I'm not sure I can help on this one. culture. Threatening sounding words and phrases like "If you don't be quiet I will throw you out" Helplessness phrases like "There's nothing I can do" Challenges & Dares like "Go ahead and try to get me fired"." Replace with phrases that recognize the other person has a right to do what they choose: "You certainly are within your rights to talk to my supervisor" Allow face-saving.. and words related to discrimination Whatever I don't care I don't give a damn That has nothing to do with I don't want to hear. or "My supervisor is just going to say the same thing" Blame or ignorance phrases like "If you paid attention you would". Use phrases like "It would help me if we could get back to the issue of. I can give it another try if it would help?" © Robert Bacal.. colour. 1998 Page 57 . or Why don't you listen?" Use background instead of more specific reference to race. "Perhaps I didn't explain that very well.Table 2 Some Examples of How To Replace Hot Words & Phrases Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Hot Words And Phrases Possible Sample Replacements Race.
along with possible alternate ways of communicating or behaving that would be more cooperative. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Your Own Personal Conflict Provoking Behaviours and Language Possible Replacements ( More Cooperative Actions and Language) © Robert Bacal. If there are ones you can think of. write them below. 1998 Page 58 . words and techniques that you use that tend to provoke conflict with other people.Worksheet 1 Add Your Own Personal Confrontation Provoking Behaviours/ Phrases You may have other phrases.
1998 Page 59 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section VI General Cooperative Communication Strategies Active Or Reflective Listening Empathy Responses Assertive Behaviour Responsiveness © Robert Bacal.
. We are going to look at active or reflective listening. and has an added benefit. and.? © Robert Bacal. Jack could use reflective listening not only to prove he understands. So. Frasier (I’m listening) don’t work very well. there are several techniques that have been found to be effective in both preventing and/or dealing with conflict situations. Happens every day. assertive statements. reacts according to his understanding. Once it is clear they are on the same wavelength. but to check back with Mary to see if he understands. Even in the midst of an angry interchange. you are saying that [paraphrase what person said]. listening and truly understand them. Some conflict occurs due to simple misunderstanding. he or she expects. or the now famous phrase from the situation comedy. listening can be a great tool for cooling off a situation. Active or reflective listening involves taking what someone says to you. and too easy to fake. The key part here is PROVE. having avoided another unnecessary conflict. expressions such as “I hear you”. There are several beginnings you can use in reflective listening: “So. They are less likely to become aggressive with you.. understanding their meaning. 1998 Page 60 . When you can prove to a person that you are attentive. they can proceed. and is greeted by an angry response because he DIDN’T really understand. Active or Reflective Listening When a person speaks to you. Jack may think he understands what Mary is saying. listening. they are much more likely to see you as easier to work with. empathy statements.. you need to prove it specifically. Is that correct? I want to make sure I understand. and rephrasing it or paraphrasing it so that the person knows you heard and understood them. It’s a relatively easy process once you get the knack of it. Are you saying that. To gain the full benefits from showing your attentiveness. most importantly. You may already be familiar with some of them. etc. if I understand you correctly.General Cooperative Communication Techniques Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Apart from replacing the specific conflict-provoking behaviours we mentioned in the last chapter. What we need are ways to phrase our responses so the other person knows that we ARE attending to them and understanding them. They are too general. or needs to know that you are paying attention. and responsiveness. “I understand”. so they don’t escalate into long-term wars.
There is a limit on the power of listening. Unfortunately.. That’s probably not completely accurate. it isn’t likely that a listening response is going to be effective until they have calmed down a little bit and prepared to hear you.Limits. It sounds as if she is attempting to make Jack look foolish. 1. It’s hard to imagine that this way of phrasing a listening response would make sense. 3. 1998 Page 61 . There is a trick to paraphrasing that links up with a point in the previous chapter regarding the use of hot words and phrases. Is that what you mean? © Robert Bacal. Here’s an improved example: Jack: (very angry) I’m fed up with your being so stupid and selfish all the time. What Marie needs to do is paraphrase. (see point immediately below) 2.for once can’t you be helpful? Marie: Let me see if I understand. we need to ensure that we replace hot phrases when we paraphrase. I’d like to understand better. The tone you use in paraphrasing things is very important. but shift the focus and avoid the hot words.. Since hot phrases tend to increase the heat of discussions. Cautions and Guidelines For Listening Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Active listening is a very powerful tool for both preventing and dealing with conflict.. Jack: (very angry) I’m fed up with your being so stupid and selfish all the time.for once can’t you be helpful? Marie: Jack. some people will associate a certain tone or way of active listening as “social-working” or “psychologizing”. Here are some things to be aware of when using active listening techniques. They may perceive it as patronizing or condescending. You’re saying that I’m stupid and selfish. but it’s still good to keep in mind that a few people won’t like it no matter how you do it. It sounds to me that you are angry because you don’t see me as being as helpful as you would like.have I got that right? It’s probably clear to you that Marie’s response sounds ridiculous. Here’s an example of how NOT to do it. When someone is very very angry and is clearly not paying much attention to anything you say. even if you repeat them after the other person has used them first. There are some people who suggest that active listening is a cure all and is appropriate in any circumstance or situation.. You need to do your best to sound matter of fact and natural when using active listening. “stupid” and “selfish”. or antagonize him under the guise of a “social work” trick.
After that we reflect back our understanding. The timing of active listening is very important. and then. and offer that response immediately when it is our turn to talk. we often prepare a response while they are speaking. As we noted earlier it may not be so effective when a person is very angry. n Are you feeling sad because of John’s layoff? (use of an empathetic question) © Robert Bacal. The trick is in the phrasing and removing of hot phrases. What we need to do is apply the following pattern: Attend Listen Understand Reflect (paraphrase back) Add our own comments To make active listening REALLY work we need to do our best to pay attention and hear what is said. If you do it that way. Then we need to understand it (in our heads) to determine what is really being said. n I can tell you are probably frustrated with this conversation. you are much more likely to get a positive response from the other person. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace It’s very important that you use active listening in a sincere attempt to understand. although it is possible to express empathy in nonverbal ways. particularly on an emotional level. Examples of empathy responses include: n It seems like you are pretty upset about this. There is an even more important point.Doesn’t this sound better? Marie is genuinely trying to address what is bothering Jack in a constructive. not a manipulation to push someone around or score points. 4. As with active listening the effectiveness of empathy responses relates to the degree to which we can PROVE to the other person that we do understand. non-defensive way. and in this case adding an empathy type statement (see empathy section later this chapter). and avoid formulating a response while the other person is talking. 1998 Page 62 . Usually empathy responses involve identifying and acknowledging the other person’s emotional state verbally. Empathy Responses Empathy responses are ways of reacting to someone that shows that we understand and can relate to their situation. and only then do we respond with our own comments. and a constructive outcome. When someone speaks to us.
As with all of the other techniques in this book. etc. 2. or “I sure know where you are coming from” are effective forms of empathy responses. appropriate facial expressions showing you share an understanding of the emotion. A person in your office who is trashing your furniture is unlikely to find the following statement as indicative of understanding. There is another reason why people might perceive empathy responses as annoying. When your words conflict with your tone of voice and body language. 1. or strike out with a comment like “Don’t you social work me”. there are some people who will respond to the use of empathy responses with annoyance. they aren’t quite so simple as they appear. While empathy responses are fairly simple. You must identify and name the emotions involved. 1998 Page 63 . While you may actually mean them sincerely. insincere or offensive. The reason is that they lack sufficient detail to PROVE to the other person that you DO understand. As a second consideration. If you encounter people like that. and perceive you as insincere. and general relationship building in the workplace. it is possible that some people will find its use problematic. First. When your empathy responses aren’t received positively the first place to look is the match (congruence) between the words and your non-verbals. Empathy responses must be accurate. If you had said: “John. and easy to learn (though not so easy to remember to use). © Robert Bacal. Here are some specific guidelines. conflict resolution. They must be in proportion to the emotion expressed by the other person. not the words. “I’ve been there”. Limits. the empathy response is inaccurate. So. you’ve got to be absolutely furious right now” would be much more accurate. don’t use it. So. That said. that you have REALLY been there. yelling out “I guess you are a bit angry” at the top of your lungs is not going to be perceived as empathetic. The words that come out of your mouth. That’s because they associate the use of empathy (and listening responses) with what occurs in therapy. probably because they aren’t used to encountering it in “real” life. they are not a cure all. empathy must be used in conjunction with other tactics. “You seem just a wee tad upset” In the context of the furniture trashing. these phrases can be misinterpreted as throwaway comments tossed in with little thought or real understanding. so you prove you understand. your non-verbals (body language) and tone of voice must match the words. let’s look at some limits and guidelines for the use of empathy statements. Clearly. there is a misconception that phrases like “I understand”. people will believe or react to the tone and non-verbals.Nonverbal examples might be patting someone on the back. Cautions and Guidelines For Empathy Responses Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Empathy responses are a powerful tool for conflict prevention. It could be you aren’t using them in an effective way. or know where they are coming from. They aren’t.
expectations and feelings. enjoyed it immensely. They were very helpful in explaining their amusement. and a second that is also clear but gentle. What George needed to do was use empathy along with other things that would show he was not only understanding but also responsive to the needs of staff and customers. or giving up on pursuing those needs by being too passive. 1998 Page 64 .3. particularly the section on empathy responses. causing the problem. Since we all have needs. We’ll look at two examples--one which is clear but very firm. I just gave up and left. more frustrated and angry than when I went in to see George. At one point he attended my seminar on defusing hostile customers. They need to be coupled with other things (see section on responsiveness). During the seminar we discussed empathy techniques. About three months later he asked if I would train his staff in defusing techniques and we went ahead with the seminar. Assertive Behaviour Assertive behaviour or assertive communication provides us with a means of expressing our own feelings and needs in a non-aggressive and non-passive way. Obviously what had happened was that George missed the point that while staff might have a need for being understood. which I suppose. The computer system. and made him look like an idiot. Let me give you an example: George is the manager of a workgroup. I went on to explain that we really needed to do something about the situation. In essence this is what they said: We were having a customer service problem. I went to George and told him about the situation and his response was: “You guys must be getting pretty frustrated”. and George responded with: “I know people must be getting angry that this has occurred a few times”. George’s use of empathy (and only empathy) made things much worse. we need ways of communicating them without being offensive. Empathy responses used by themselves can be problematic over time. and two of George’s employees started talking and chuckling to themselves. had locked up. After trying one or two times more. and people were lined up out the door and getting very angry. Assertive behaviour can be slightly firm or very firm. they also had a need to solve the problem. That’s all he said. for the third time in the month. That’s all he said. in this context is somewhat accurate. The Assertive Request The way we ask for things from other people is going to have a major impact on a) Conflict Prevention In The Workplace © Robert Bacal. We’ll return to this in the section on responsiveness. I talked to them at break time.
whether the other person works with us and b) whether we create conflict about the way the request is phrased. A weak request or one that is too passive can result in the other person not taking the request seriously. 1. Or let’s imagine Fred is constantly visiting you while you are trying to get work done. Since this has been going on for some time. When we add a consequence to our assertive request we add a measure of harshness. 1998 Page 65 . you could yell out “Get the hell out of my office” which we would classify as aggressive behaviour. In this example. Or. there are a few things the books (and assertiveness trainers don’t tell you). © Robert Bacal. A request that is too aggressive or blunt is less likely to encourage the other person to comply. We could add: “If you continue to drop by while I am working. interrupting you with chitchat. it delays the meeting and causes a lot of frustration. unless it’s work related. Cautions & Guidelines For Assertiveness Assertiveness training and assertive behaviour have become very popular. While assertive behaviour is certainly better than being overly passive or aggressive. You might deal with this by saying: Fred. we have left out the specification of consequences. and it delays our getting to our next appointments. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave”. let’s imagine that one of your team members. you are understandably upset. or just try to ignore him. I’d be glad to help if I can. so it is often a good idea to leave it off. Unfortunately. that way. It would really help me if you dropped in during coffee break only. Limits. Fred. You could do nothing and be polite (while seething). Perhaps we could chat at lunch too. you could be assertive as follows: Fred. I appreciate talking to you but when you come into my office to chat while I am working I lose my place and it takes up a lot of my time. even if people aren’t here. then add it if you don’t get a positive response. It would really help if you could be here on time. Let’s look at a few limits. is constantly late for team meetings. when you are even a few minutes late. but both of those options are passive and unlikely to help Fred realize that his behaviour is unhelpful. but from now on I am going to suggest that we start on time. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace The assertive request includes several components: • • • • Specific description of the current behaviour that is problematic Specific explanation of why that behaviour is a problem Specific request (to behave differently) Consequence of not complying (optional) For example. since the communication is “softer”. Or. in the lunch room.
according to “the rules”. Responsiveness includes both listening and empathy responses. through books or seminars. It is important to recognize that assertiveness (or any specific technique) is going to work sometimes with some people and not at other times. It is the extension of communication into action. but shows you are prepared to act on that understanding to the best of your ability. many people don’t react positively to assertive requests. they should respond positively. For example. 3. There is another strategy. make your assertive request. Expressing the emotion you experience can work well with people with whom you have a good relationship. In conversation the guideline is that you respond to what the other person is saying FIRST. hurt. Keep in mind you have no more right to discuss your issue than the other person has to discuss theirs. assertiveness can be an excellent tool. For people who dislike you. or who deliberately attempt to hurt your feelings. and as we know action does speak louder than words. which you probably aren’t familiar with. angry. 1998 Page 66 .” This is not always a good idea. people who dislike you or don’t care. many people will not react positively to it. etc.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace and is constructive. even though. and who really care whether you are upset. If they are focusing on their issue. don’t care about your feelings. then after that is dealt with. Responsiveness means speaking or acting in a way that RESPONDS to the wants and needs of the other person in a clear way. finish that before introducing yours. responsiveness. or acting to address a need that a person hasn’t expressed directly. you are better off sticking to the practical effects of their behaviour (it delays me. but also may include a large range of other behaviours such as acting on a person’s request.. For strangers. 2. Responsive behaviour goes beyond listening and empathy because not only does it show that you understand the other person. When two people respect each other. So the rule is that for people with whom you have ongoing relationships and care about you. Responsiveness In all likelihood you have come across the techniques of active listening assertiveness and using empathy responses elsewhere. “When you call me fat. Some people will even see the assertive request (and the associated consequences) as a threat. I feel angry and upset. Unfortunately. unconnected to the current conversation. acknowledging that you have been hurt can encourage them in their nasty behaviour. It is the hardest to explain or define. use the feeling bit. and play by the same assertive rules. but let’s give it a try. The timing of assertive requests if really critical. chances are you aren’t going to get a positive response. Traditional assertiveness training suggests that you include a statement of the effect of a person’s behaviour on you and how you are feeling. Why do we need the idea of responsive© Robert Bacal. For example. slows me down). if you make an assertive request out of the blue.
responsiveness is the place to start.. Obviously Betty shouldn’t be hoarding the books in the first place. Let’s consider a new example. And. If your goal is to become a better team member. Betty is the first person to agree. do what she promised. To return to the earlier example of George. and joined the customer service fray with his staff and pitched in. when other team members talk about how difficult it is to find the books and materials when they need them. 1998 Page 67 . Responding to someone else’s © Robert Bacal. offered coffee. with a promise to address the problem as soon as the meeting adjourns by replacing the materials in the common area where they belong. the rest of the team have learned that Betty is usually the person who has the books and materials stashed away in some cranny of her office. But she is. Cautions & Guidelines For Responsiveness Being responsive to the needs and wants of other people is fairly difficult. he would have been seen as responding to two needs of his staff: the first being a need to be understood by the boss. you communicate the circumstances to those involved. if something comes up to prevent you from doing it. her actions make her non-responsive to the needs of her team mates. THEN. That’s how you build team relationships and even how you repair damaged ones. one that might occur in a team environment. all of us act in non-responsive ways. At team meetings. It is important for teams and individual team members to be responsive not only in what they say. Betty is a member of a team along with seven other people. If George had done something even if he couldn’t solve the problem immediately. but also in what they do. How could George have been responsive? George could have jumped up from his chair. It’s that simple. Limits.. called the computer company. and his staff. However. Being responsive to others’ needs means doing what you promise to do when you promise to do it. and enhancing George’s standing with his staff and customers. Long term non-responsiveness is guaranteed to create huge problems for the person being nonresponsive and those around him or her. it’s worth attending to because there are NO limits on it’s use. At some time or other. to solve it and eventually prevent it’s reoccurrence. if George had been responsive to the needs expressed by his employees. much more could have been accomplished. What could she do at that meeting? One approach would be to use empathy and listening techniques immediately. explained the difficulty to customers. Unfortunately. and to reduce the amount of conflict you are involved in in the workplace. including solving the customer service problem.it is based on both talk and action that proves our sincerity when we talk. Her talk is supportive and understanding. and the second a need to deal with the problem. or a number of other things in addition to his use of empathy. the manager. While her talk may include listening and empathy responses.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace ness? To remind ourselves that our ability to prevent conflict and build relationships in the workplace isn’t just based on talk.
needs and wants is always going to be productive, provided you have read the person and the situation correctly. Let’s look at some guidelines.
I. Steps In The Responsiveness Process
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
1. Often people aren’t clear about what their real needs and wants are in any given situation. Sometimes they don’t know themselves, or may be hesitant to express them. Your job is to look underneath what they are saying to try to develop a hypothesis about what might be useful to them, in the moment, and in the future. So when you listen (a prerequisite for being responsive), listen carefully to determine possible actions. You cannot respond appropriately until you understand the needs of the other person, even if they aren’t expressed directly. 2. Check out your hypothesis with the other person. Use reflective listening to clarify and confirm the accuracy of what you have identified. Ask questions and offer POSSIBLE suggestions to confirm whether the other person sees them as helpful. 3. Once the other person has confirmed your hypothesis about their needs, then it’s time to offer what you can in terms of responsive actions. This is where you make a commitment to help, specific in nature. 4. Once you have made that commitment, undertake it as a firm commitment with the highest priority (if you can’t do that, don’t make a commitment). Do what you say. 5. After you complete your responsive action, then check back, whether it is immediately or weeks after. Approach the other person to ask if the problem was solved, or if your actions were helpful. Modify and repeat the cycle if necessary.
II. The Responsive Team Members Creed
In the course of writing for and working with teams, we’ve developed a brief summary, or responsive team member’s creed, which outlines a set of commitments individual team members can make. The items reflect how effective teams work together effectively over long periods of time.
n My job is to help others around me do their jobs, whether it be my boss, other team
members or other staff. To the extent that my boss, and those around me succeed, so will I succeed.
n I help others do their jobs in a number of ways, and ensure that others get their psychological needs met. I do the following consistently:
In communicating, I first seek to understand before I speak. I use active listening and avoid prejudging others before hearing them, and understanding them.
© Robert Bacal, 1998
I use my understanding of others to acknowledge what they have said, and what underlies what they have said, and exhibit empathetic communications because I must prove, day by day, my understanding and commitment. My communication is problem-solving oriented rather than blaming oriented. I proactively gather information about what is going on with the people around me, using non-confrontational questioning, and dialogue to generate understanding. I check out my perceptions of others and their needs, so I get it right, consistently. I recognize that each person around me is unique, and may require something different from me. My favourite question is: “What can I do to help you get this job done?” I walk my talk, so that people will understand that my actions and deeds are consistent; that I have a genuine concern for meeting the needs of staff, colleagues and bosses, in addition to my own. I clear away barriers for others to do their jobs by working to obtain needed resources, and to remove barriers set up by the situation or by others.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
n n n n
Keypoints: Responsiveness Checklist (apply to each interaction)
We end this section with a short checklist you can copy and use after an interaction to assess your degree of responsiveness.
o I listened first before responding or thinking about my response. o I avoided mentally pre-judging the other person’s statements before they finished. o I checked out my understanding using non-confrontational questions and reflective
o I responded to the feelings of the other person, not just the content. o I responded to the issue/problem by moving to a problem-solving mode, trying to
identify how I could help.
o I made special effort to remember (mentally file) the conversation away so I could
o Based on the conversation, I took action to remove barriers, help the other person,
etc.; to walk the talk.
© Robert Bacal, 1998
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Section VII Organization, Team, and Management Involvement In Conflict Prevention
Effective Teams Establishing Guidelines, Norms, and Processes How Do You Make Rules & Guidelines A Reality? The Role of Those In Formal Authority
© Robert Bacal, 1998
Organization, Team & Management Involvement In Conflict Prevention
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
So far we have focused almost entirely on what you (each individual), can do to reduce unnecessary conflict. This isn’t the whole story. If you recall, in an earlier chapter there was a discussion of people who seem to attract conflict wherever they go, people who try to avoid conflict at all cost but also tend to create it with their avoidance, and the “sweeties”, those folks that seem to hardly ever get into serious or ugly conflict situations. It won’t surprise you that the same applies to organizations or teams. Some organizations seem to be continually in an uproar or conflict crisis. Other organizations seem to sweep conflict under the rug, but do considerable damage in the attempt, and some organizations just get on with business, deal with disagreement effectively and without hard feelings, and seem to have an environment that is enjoyable for staff. In other words some organizations create a climate where ugly conflict occurs easily, and other organizations create a climate where ugly conflicts are less likely. In both cases, group members work together to create a constructive or destructive climate. Where organizations establish a positive climate, they do so through a combination of informal and formal measures that encourage and remind people that there is an expectation that they will treat others with respect. In this chapter we are going to look at some of the issues and tactics that effective teams (and organizations) use to create a conflict-prevention climate, and one of respect and effective communication. In addition, we need to look at the roles those in positions of formal authority--managers, executives, supervisors. People in those roles play critical roles in defining what is expected, what is acceptable, and can also contribute much to the teaching of cooperative communication and conflict prevention.
Effective teams (those with reduced ugly, wasteful conflict) actually function differently compared to their more conflict riddled counterparts. Effective teams tend to:
• focus on constructive problem-solving rather than finger-pointing or blaming • be composed of relatively proactive members who are willing to take individual re• • • •
© Robert Bacal, 1998
sponsibility for themselves, the welfare of other team members, and team effectiveness share leadership as necessary have a clear, shared, integrated sense of purpose and priorities have members whose talk and behaviour are as consistent as possible have effective forums for discussion and decision-making (properly structured meetPage 71
particularly when the tasks assigned to the group need to be done yesterday. a set of expectations regarding conduct in groups settings--in some cases even a set of rules. What might these rules look like? Here are a number of examples relating to conduct and communication during group meetings (a critical forum for either preventing ugly conflict or creating it). it’s the opposite. • Interruptions of another person should be limited to situations where the person being © Robert Bacal. backbiting. • When one person is speaking or has the floor. How Do Teams Get To This Point? Teams get to this point of effectiveness through the individual efforts of at least some of the team members. and through the application of effective leadership by those in formal. ambiguous organizational structures) have members who look to their own behaviour. energy and style come with the “team territory” and can increase team effectiveness rather than decrease it. One of the best investments any organization or team can make is to establish. These rules need to be jointly developed by the group for the group. or meeting management or similar kinds of things. don’t get the tasks done in a reasonable amount of time.. In fact. open or covert attacks and often as not. As a result of their lack of attention to prevention they end up lost in conflict. 1998 Page 72 . other conversations should stop. without first establishing how the group can best work together. focus on what they can control. and Processes. Establishing Guidelines. It may seem a waste of time for a team to spend any amount of time establishing groundrules for discussion.g. Teams wracked by conflict due to unclear understandings of team values. it is probably fair to say that the majority of teams hurl themselves into the tasks they have been assigned. Norms. waste huge amounts of time over a long period of time (sometimes years). an intentional effort to define constructive and non-constructive behaviour.• • • Conflict Prevention In The Workplace • ings) recognize that differences in ability. reduced staff or resources. Let’s look at some formal team efforts. rather than constantly monitoring the behaviour of others and “keeping score”. While it’s hard to generalize. or even informal leadership positions. etc. as a group. In most cases teams (or members of an organization) are thrown together to achieve some particular set of results. not what they can’t work together to overcome barriers and impediments placed before them by circumstances or outside forces (e.
that when one team member. not a third person. • Gossip is not acceptable. • When a person gets frustrated they have a responsibility to be part of the solution. and never on personalities. won’t go without challenge. etc. even a few members of the team who apply guidelines and remind others of their commitment to them can exert a very strong effect on the use of those rules. That’s why it’s so important that team members stand by the guidelines. That means for example. by themselves. Try to work it out with the other person first. How Do You Make Rules & Guidelines A Reality Every person in a group or team has an equal responsibility to ensure that the principles and guidelines of the team are respected and followed. Once you have a set of agreed upon rules and principles the next challenge is to have them taken seriously and followed. Behaviours like eye-rolling. going to be useful unless they are followed. since everyone’s time is valuable. • We don’t want to force people to suppress disagreement since we can all learn by it. Fred. There may be some situations where a manager or supervisor should be involved but never as a first resort. please contribute them in a positive way. which would include making suggestions as to how things might work better. blame or finger-pointing. 1998 Page 73 . and then airing views privately behind closed doors. interrupts © Robert Bacal. That means making their frustrations clear in a positive way. If you have concerns. What is not acceptable is having concerns. Back channel communication is damaging to everyone. Sniping without making positive suggestions isn’t appropriate. and communicate concisely.interrupted has violated some principles or rules we have already agreed to. but is also subject to them. After all. keeping quiet in group meetings. • Someone who has some concerns about another team member or their work should share those concerns with the other individual. and problem-solving. Here are some other guidelines that pertain to team participation but not directly to meetings. whether they are part of the interchange or not. Apart from what you might think. • We should all make an effort to keep on topic. Neither are passive-aggressive behaviours acceptable. no amount of rules are. avoid bringing in tangents. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace • The individual designated as the meeting chair has a responsibility to apply the agreed upon rules. • Discussions should be focused on issues. heavy sighing.
because people do nothing to prevent it.. informal rule emerges. Here are some examples. OK? “Fred. and then EACH PERSON has a responsibility to follow them. we would take it up with them directly. 1998 Page 74 . I’m not comfortable breaking that agreement. I can’t help you solve your frustration. until interactions generate into utter chaos. I want to hear what you have to say. and will not collaborate in © Robert Bacal. I know this situation bothers you. Imagine that Paul likes to spend time making comments to other team members about John. If third parties do not intervene. note that these responses are appropriate even if Mary doesn’t seem offended by the interruption. it is appropriate for Erica to indicate that this isn’t something she will participate in. not on how selfish. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace “Fred. Here’s another example. because we take them seriously. we agreed as a group that if any of us had a gripe about someone on the team. but we agreed that we wouldn’t interrupt each other.. However. a person he seems to dislike. rude or offensive. and it sounded interesting. So I’d rather not be a part of this. so I’m going to have to stop now. but you know. How should Erica handle this? Perhaps it doesn’t particularly bother her to be “supportive” to Paul by listening to his complaints. since there isn’t anything I can do. Since bitch sessions accomplish little and have the potential to be destructive. We challenge these breeches of the guidelines. you’re talking to the wrong person. Paul has a good working relationship with Erica and at coffee he sometimes vents his frustration about John to her.the only person that might be able to work this out with you is John. The guidelines for team behaviour will become more and more powerful to the extent that each individual practices them.Mary as she is speaking. actually encourages this kind of non-constructive behaviour to continue. Is there something else you wanted to talk about?” The key point is that teams set guidelines together. Also. Let’s let her finish her thought. Could you hold your thought while Mary finishes?” Notice that these are constructive and positive responses that focus on the issue of interrupting. her acquiescence (willingness to listen). If enough people accept the complaining behaviour then a new. So Erica needs to consider her own responsibility to the team as a whole. or rude Fred might be. To make it more concrete here are some constructive. and then perhaps you might add to it. non-conflict provoking ways to comment as a third party. and encourage others to follow them. “Paul. it sets a climate where the guidelines will become less and less meaningful. It needn’t be heavyhanded. Why not talk to John? “Paul. a third team member can jump in and politely remind Fred that he is interrupting. Complaining behaviour becomes OK. I wasn’t able to hear the rest of Mary’s suggestion.
breaking them. Over time this changes the culture of an organization or team.
The Role of Those In Formal Authority
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Despite recent talk about the usefulness of self-directed teams, leaderless teams or teams without any appointed formal leader or authority, most of us still work in organizations that follow a hierarchical structure, at least in part. There are executives, managers, supervisors and team leaders. Even for teams that are almost entirely self-directed there are informal or temporary leaders. Conflict prevention and constructive interaction are the responsibilities of everyone in a work group. However, those in formal authority can contribute due to their temporary or permanent leadership roles. First, an observation. Several high status management consultants have suggested that they can “infer” the behaviour of leaders in an organization, even if they have never met them, by observing the behaviour of the staff in an organization. If someone walking through a workplace observes that the workplace is relatively staid and humourless, chances are that the managers of that workgroup are also staid and relatively humourless. If staff have difficulties communicating with each other, or with excessive conflict, it is likely that the formal leader of that group has the same difficulties. While we don’t want to take this notion to extremes, there is some truth to the contention that staff in an organization take on some of the characteristics of management, at least in the workplace. What that means is that formal leaders, whether they do so intentionally or not, influence behaviour in the workplace. They set the tone for the organization. If the manager gossips and uses back-channel communication, staff will be more likely to do so. If the manager communicates and behaves with integrity, and principles, and models the behaviours he or she desires in the workplace, those behaviours are more likely to become the norm for groups.
The Manager/Supervisory Role
First, let’s reiterate the goal in terms of what we want to create in the workplace. The goal is to develop a climate of trust, support, problem-solving and absence of confrontational communication so that we reduce the amount of time and energy needed to deal with unnecessary conflict. That translates into improved productivity. Managers and supervisors can help move organizations towards this goal through their own behaviour. We use the term responsive management, drawn from the concept of responsiveness outlined in a previous chapter.
© Robert Bacal, 1998
What Is Responsive Management?
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
The function of responsive management is to reduce the day-to-day frustrations for everyone involved in the workplace. By doing so, responsive managers contribute to conflict reduction. A manager can be characterized as responsive if s/he:
n consistently attempts to identify the needs of those around them (employees, colleagues, boss, clients). This includes the ability to “hear” explicit statements of needs, and to “read between the lines”, looking at what is left unsaid and may be expressed through other’s actions.
n responds to staff according to the following role statement: “The manager/leader’s job
is to make it easier for others to do their jobs.
n uses the understanding of others’ needs to assist in fulfilling those needs. n acknowledges and works in partnership with other parties to find some means of
fulfilling needs that IS possible, even if only partial fulfilment results.
n uses a family of communication techniques and skills (cooperative communication
techniques) that serve the following functions:
• indicates interest, concern and responsibility for the welfare of others, their job
achievements, development and success, as indicated by the use of appropriate questioning, listening and remembering the needs of staff.
• indicates an openness to others’ ideas and working together to solve problems;
rather than focusing on the use of power, status, and identifying blame for errors.
• indicates acceptance of responsibility for communication and follow-up behaviour
Apart from the general concept of responsiveness, managers lead by example to create the climate they desire. With respect to conflict prevention and communication this means managers need to learn and apply cooperative communication techniques in a consistent, persistent way. Staff will often look to formal leaders to resolve problems in the workplace that have to do with interpersonal communication. Some have called this role the mediation role. It’s a complicated role, but we can supply a few guidelines for those charged with mediating
© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 76
between two parties. There are two goals to the mediation process. The first is the resolution of the immediate problem presenting itself between two people. The second, and perhaps the more important is to prevent similar problems and conflicts from re-emerging in the future. A manager with sufficient power and clout (often an illusion) can, theoretically use that power to order a solution--that is, to simply step in and dictate how the problem will be dealt with. That might address the first goal of resolution, but probably damages movement towards the prevention goal. By legislating a solution, the manager creates a situation that removes responsibility for resolution from the two parties, making it more likely that the manager will have to be involved in similar, recurring problems between the parties. Managers address the prevention aspect by considering conflict between staff as an opportunity to teach, educate and train people to get along more effectively in the future. They can do this by modelling the cooperative communication techniques outlined in this book during meetings with the parties involved. Managers can also emphasize the expectation that the responsibility for resolving problems (and preventing them) lies with the parties involved. This, coupled with the coaching role, is more likely to encourage staff to learn to solve their own difficulties. Emphasizing the responsibility of staff to work things out (whether assisted by management or not) doesn’t excuse the manager from making what one manager calls “A-1 executive decisions” There may be times when the amount of effort needed to help two parties sort out a problem far exceeds the importance of the issue. It is the manager’s perogative to make an A-1 executive decision about an issue, when, in the manager’s judgement, there is little to be gained by having the parties struggle to work things out together. The key with these decisions is to do them in a light way, and to make them infrequently. It is also important for managers to resist the temptation to make executive decisions too frequently, because that will cause staff to rely on management to clean up the messes they may be creating. So, good judgment is critical, keeping in mind the two goals set out- problem resolution and problem/conflict prevention.
Meeting Management Role
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Meeting management is a critical, but often overlooked role related to conflict prevention. According to research, people in the workplace are spending more and more time in meetings, and enjoying them less. That’s not good. Meetings that run badly can create frustration levels that contribute to conflict both within the meetings, and outside of the meetings. So, it is important to discuss the role of the meeting chair.
© Robert Bacal, 1998
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
The person chairing a meeting need not be the formal leader of the organization (e.g.. Director, Supervisor) but may be a temporary formal leader for the limited purposes of that particular meeting. That means every staff member can take on this role in a rotating manner, sharing the role equally, or perhaps according to skill. The meeting chair is responsible for keeping some semblance of order in the meetings, and keeping people focused on the purpose(s) of the meeting. With respect to conflict prevention, it is the chair’s job to ensure that people are treated in a cooperative, constructive manner during the meeting, and that everyone who wishes to be heard (and who is on topic) actually gets heard. That doesn’t mean that other people at the meeting have no responsibility...only that the meeting chair has some formal ones that need to be exercised. Meeting chairs also lead by example, using cooperative techniques, sometimes guide, sometimes teach and suggest and sometimes make those A-1 executive meeting chair decisions. Keypoints Conflict prevention succeeds when two conditions are satisfied. The first is that individuals in the workplace use cooperative communication techniques, and learn to interact with colleagues in ways that are less likely to cause unnecessary destructive problems. The second is that organizations, and teams work as a collective to establish a culture of conflict prevention and respect. Organizations as a whole work to create climates (either intentionally or unintentionally) that either reduce conflict or create it. Teams, for example can ignore the need for establishing norms and guidelines and pay the conflict price, or they can invest time upfront to clarify expectations and establish procedures more likely to reduce conflict. In addition to group issues, formal leaders play important roles in conflict prevention through the use of modelling desired constructive behaviour consistently, mediating when necessary with a mind to both problem resolution AND problem prevention (the teaching role), and on occasion making A-1 executive decisions when absolutely necessary. Finally, conflict prevention is best achieved when everyone shares the responsibility for communicating effectively, and making sure that others do so also.
© Robert Bacal, 1998
Understanding Escalation Principles of Defusing Hostility © Robert Bacal.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section VIII When Push Comes To Shove. 1998 Page 79 ...
When Push Comes To Shove...
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
It would be naive to think that we can eliminate all unnecessary, destructive conflict. Regardless of what you do personally, or what the team does together, there are going to be instances where conflict occurs, and one person chooses to be hostile, aggressive, personal, destructive and irresponsible. While cooperative communication reduces the likelihood of this occurring (particularly if used consistently and over time) it IS going to happen. One day you will be talking to someone, using all the cooperative communication techniques on the planet, and that other person is going to dump all over you. Or, even worse, you might work with someone who is almost always difficult, obnoxious and insulting whether it be intentional or not. How you handle these critical high stress situations is going to determine whether you create an ongoing war that will make everyone miserable, or whether you calm things down a bit. So, what do we do when that other person goes beyond pushing, starts to verbally shove and uses confrontation-provoking language? Understanding Escalation First, let’s look at what is called the conflict escalation cycle, since it forms the basis for figuring out what to do with the conflict-provokers of the world. Generally really unpleasant conflict doesn’t occur instantaneously. It occurs as a result of a cycle of escalation where each person in the interaction throws a bit more fuel onto the fire. In situations where two people don’t like each other the process can occur very quickly and an all out war can emerge in what amounts to seconds of fast interaction. The best way to understand this is to look at some dialogue. Peter and Mary work together in the workplace. Peter tends to be somewhat abrupt in style, somewhat over-dramatic. Mary is fairly easy going. In this example, Mary has had a difficult day and is carrying some frustration from it. The conversation begins with Peter approaching Mary in her office. Peter: Mary, where the hell are those letters you said you would finish? My client is on my back about it, and I don’t know what to tell him! [comment: this is a rather abrupt approach but isn’t really terrible (yet)] Mary: Hey, don’t bite my head off...we agreed those letters weren’t needed until next week. Why are you getting on my case? You’ll get them. [comment: Mary’s bad day is coming through. Notice the use of the command “Don’t bite
© Robert Bacal, 1998
my head off” which is that little bit of fuel to the fire] Peter: Mary, don’t start ordering me around...this isn’t the first time that you have messed up on something, and this time it’s serious.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
[comment: Peter responds with another command “don’t start ordering me around”, and moves to a past-centred mode, mixed with some over-dramatization--a good dollop of fuel] Mary: Peter, I’ve had a really lousy day, and I don’t need you coming into my office hollering at me...I’ve got enough on my plate without you being rude. If you really cared about getting this done, you would have gotten the letters done yourself and not overloaded me with them. [comment: Big trouble! Mary uses a guilt induction attempt, a personal accusation about being rude, and a flat out manipulative phrase “If you really cared”...] We could play this scenario out but you can guess that this conversation isn’t going to produce anything constructive. The key point here is that while Peter “started” this, Mary immediately conspired with Peter to create a situation of conflict escalation. Each utterance by Mary and Peter escalated the situation, first slightly then to a great degree...all in what might be one minute of interaction. Here’s what you need to remember. That even if one person is rude or aggressive, you don’t need to play that particular hostile game on their turf and by their rules. In fact, if you respond in kind, you are most likely to increase your anger, and stress while getting absolutely nothing accomplished except to create bad feelings. So, we want to ensure that we don’t contribute to that escalation, and of course, cooperative communication techniques are our prime tools. We will provide an alternate dialogue example for this situation, but let’s look at a set of defusing hostility principles appropriate to situations where someone is being rude, aggressive and confrontational towards you. Principles of Defusing Hostility
Deal With Persons Feelings First
An angry person needs to have the issue AND their feelings addressed in order to start interacting constructively. The angrier the person, the more important it is to acknowledge their anger through the use of empathy statements and listening responses FIRST, before moving on to the issue. Problem solving with angry people often results in wasted time unless they are ready to participate calmly.
© Robert Bacal, 1998
Begin To Defuse Early
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
Angry and frustrated people usually indicate their mood prior to opening their mouths and beginning a hostile attack. One way to address or pre-empt the attack is to begin the defusing process before the other person gets on an abusive rant. For example, in the dialogue with Mary and Peter, Mary might have noticed Peter standing in her doorway looking rather irate and angry, and spoken first using an empathy type response like: “Hi, Peter, you look like you are really upset with something. What’s up?” Something as simple as that might have made a huge difference in setting a more respectful tone for the interaction.
Be Assertive, Not Manipulative, Passive or Aggressive
You have a right to take action, or impose consequences in situations where someone has stepped over the line in their comments or behaviours. In fact, if you don’t speak up for yourself in these situations bully-type people will perceive you as an acceptable victim for their poor behaviour. When using assertive type statements or setting up consequences, do not dwell on the way the person is communicating any more than necessary. Make your statement, then refocus the conversation back to the issue. With respect to Mary and Peter this is one way Mary might have responded. “Peter, I will help you sort this out so you have what you need. In order to help you I need you to slow down, and answer a few questions so we can get this done. Notice that the above is firm, clear and assertive. If Peter persists in being nasty or personal Mary is within her rights to say: “Peter, if you can answer my questions so we can get you those letters, I can help you. If you continue to raise your voice I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Which would you prefer?”
The Critical Message: It Isnt Going To Work With Me
Aggressive, abusive and manipulative people look for victims they can control, using a variety of confrontation-provoking behaviour. When dealing with such people the important message to send is “What you are doing isn’t going to work with me..I will not be bullied, suckered into stupid arguments, insulted or give you the satisfaction of reacting to the abuse”. In short, it isn’t going to work with me. Once aggressive people realize that they aren’t going to be able to control you (make you angry or upset), they are more likely to aim their nasty behaviour at someone who is a better victim.
If You Lose Control, You Lose, Period!
Manipulative nasty behaviour is designed to affect you emotionally so that you will
© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 82
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace
become aggressive or defensive. When we lose our cool and defend ourselves or become aggressive we actually end up doing what the other nasty person wants us to do...and we lose because we enter into an ugly game where nobody can win. Self-control is critical, and that has a particular meaning. It means that we control our behaviour. You are entitled to be angry or upset if you choose but you can learn to control your behaviour and the way you express that anger or upset so something good comes from it. Here are some tips:
• When dealing with someone who is attempting to provoke a confrontation, make a
conscious attempt to slow down your responses. Do NOT reply immediately since your first gut level response is likely to be an angry or defensive response. Before you respond, ask yourself the questions: “How can I deal with this situation so I create LESS anger and upset on both sides?”. Then respond.
• Pay special attention to the speed and loudness of your speech. When people get
excited they tend to talk more quickly and loudly and that causes the other person to escalate also...as the conversation increases in speed there is less and less thought and more chance that people will say things that are destructive. Take your time.
• If you are really triggered, (“pissed off”) at what is being said to you, it is a good idea
to take a time-out. A time-out is not avoidance--it differs in terms of what one says. For example, if you say: “I’m not talking about this with you” that is an avoidance response and a brush-off and likely to make the situation worse. If you say: “It isn’t a good time for me to talk about this, but I would like to discuss it with you tomorrow. Can we set up a time to meet?, that’s different because it is expressing a commitment to work with the person and does so without characterizing the conversation as negative.
What You Focus On You Get More Of
There is a general principle in life that the things you focus on you get more of. Practically speaking, that means that when someone used confrontation-provoking behaviour you have a choice as to whether you talk about the “junk” or “bait” or whether you talk about something constructive. If you focus on side-issues, personal attacks, negativity, past-centred comments, etc., THAT is what the conversation will be about. If you turn the conversation to something constructive, and do not focus on the confrontation-focusing comments, you don’t allow the attacking person a forum to continue the attacks. (see also Avoid Taking The Bait)
Avoid High Risk, High Gain Behaviour
Some reactions to nasty attacking behaviour have some chance of succeeding, but are called high risk, high gain behaviour. That is, when they work, they work well, but when they fail, they increase the level of emotion, aggression and even violence. Two examples: a verbal blunt smack upside the head, and humour. Both will work sometimes (probably rarely), and when they work they can be very effective in turning a destructive conversa© Robert Bacal, 1998 Page 83
But let’s move back to the merits of the two systems we are discussing. and need to look at the pluses and minuses. 1998 Page 84 . the “fisherperson” basically reels you in. In this example Fred has slipped the personal attacks (basically ignored them) and refocuses back to the file systems. We tend to remember the few times when high risk. since you have given up control of the conversation. It ties in with several other principles we have talked about. they increase the escalation of the conflict situation. aggressive people in the workplace can range from the simple to the very complex. The problem is when they don’t work. Worse. The term verbal bait refers to the many confrontation provoking behaviours that have a single purpose. When you take the bait. you have given up control of the conversation to someone who probably doesn’t have your best interests at heart.. high gain actions succeed.. Fred: “Vlad. We have the flingengaus system and the tragingf system. For those interested in additional resources we suggest books by Suzette Haden Elgin (Verbal Self-Defense series) or George Thompson (Verbal Judo). to control and manipulate you into responding in emotional ways...tion around. © Robert Bacal. and make the mistake of assuming that they will work again. In most cases the bait has little or nothing to do with whatever is being discussed but is a conversational control ploy. I know you are frustrated about this. This is usually not the case. Some Other Comments The process of dealing with abusive. prevent escalation and turn destructive conversations around. We have outlined a few basic principles but there are a number of verbal techniques that can be used to defuse angry situations. As such it is best ignored. Let the bait go by. Let’s face it you are one of the most unorganized people here. For example: Vlad The Impaler: I don’t think you are competent to even have an opinion on whether we should change our filing system. Dont Take The Bait Conflict Prevention In The Workplace We’ve left this principle to last because it is probably the most important. In conflict situations it is a better bet to stay away from those kinds of actions because more often than not they backfire. then refocus or move on to the issue you need to deal with. One tactic is to acknowledge the other person’s feelings.
1998 Page 85 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section X Electronic Communication Issues A Little Communication Theory Why Is E-Mail More Prone To Unnecessary Conflict? Guidelines & Tips For The Use Of E-Mail © Robert Bacal.
or how it is different from other forms of communication such as face-to-face communication. you may want to read this chapter anyway. whether they be complete strangers or well-known colleagues. organizations are coming to rely more and more on electronic communication for communicating internally. This model. Before we do. In face-toface communication. The telegraphic model suggests that there is a sender and a receiver for any given message. 1998 Page 86 . For example. and needs to be addressed. Let’s fix it so it reflects what really happens with face-to-face communication. It’s easy to get caught up in what is a truly wonderful set of technologies. Because conflict and communication problems can arise because of the MEDIUM. That means that conflict and miscommunication emerge in electronic communication as a result of participants not understanding the limitations of the medium. it falls into what we consider as unnecessary and potentially destructive communication. For those of you who do not use electronic mail. Our understanding of how electronic communication works hasn’t kept up with the technological innovations. and they switch positions in turn. With the increased popularity of the Internet. It applies to telegrams and telegraphs. many people have access. but there is one problem. not only to people within their companies. So the simplified model looks like this: Person A-------->Person B------->Person A--------->Person B The sender sends a message which arrives at the receiver. Many of the models used in training are based on the “telegraphic model”. a comment on some models of communication you may have come across in the past in training sessions or other books. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace A Little Communication Theory To understand how electronic mail is different than ANY other medium we need to look at a little bit of painless communication theory. but not to all forms of communication . and then in turn becomes the sender while the other becomes the receiver. When two people talk in person. but to anyone connected to the Internet. © Robert Bacal. both parties are sending and receiving information at the exact same time. communication is not sequential. commonly applied to all communication is mostly incorrect. Most large companies have some sort of internal e-mail (electronic mail) system that allows staff to communicate to the next office. telephone communication and so on. and with customers and suppliers.Electronic Communication Issues & Conflict As we come to the end of the 1990’s. the branch office down the street or the foreign office across the sea. since we are going to introduce some interesting and useful theory that integrates with the rest of this book. who figures out what it means.
You send a message to a colleague. The result of a well-crafted letter in business should be a clear document. Although e-mail is telegraphic communication. wait for a response. but have less mutual simultaneous influence. particularly if it is important. Why Is E-mail More Prone to Creating Unnecessary Conflict? If you have any experience on the Internet or using your company’s internal email system. Electronic communication (via e-mail) is telegraphic and sequential. Letter writing is much closer to (or perhaps identical to the telegraphic model. In formal letter writing (another telegraphic medium) people will write. Telephone conversations are closer to face-to-face interactions. then switches to the other. for example. Why is that the case? E-mail is different from any other telegraphic medium because of the speed and lack of cost associated with it. It looks like this: Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Person A<------------------>Person B This allows for what we call simultaneous mutual influence. in real time. and presume that their written words will be understood exactly as they intend. It FEELS like face to face conversation and people write email very informally. Misunderstandings cannot be clarified or fixed in real time. well thought out. The critical point here as it relates to e-mail is that the closer a medium is to telegraphic communication. that expresses the content and tone of the sender of the letter. talking face-to-face. People don’t treat e-mail like formal letter writing. Different communication mediums differ in terms of how close they are to face-to-face real time communication and influence or how close they are to the telegraphic model where only one person sends at a time and influence goes one way. They dash off notes quickly. and get into trouble. What they forget is that it isn’t face-to-face communi- © Robert Bacal. reread and ponder over the communication. So face-to-face communication involves both parties being sender and receiver at the same time. people treat it like face-to-face communication.when one person is talking. almost as if they are sitting next to the other person. 1998 Page 87 . It allows for mid-course corrections if both parties are sensitive to the messages sent by the other person and willing to be influenced by them. the other may be not talking but through the use of nonverbals (facial expression or nodding) send messages of approval or disapproval WHILE the person is talking. edit. Here’s the core issue. and the more difficult it is to resolve conflict using that medium. the more likely it is to end up creating conflict. don’t reread their e-mails before sending them. Each person’s behaviour influences the other’s reactions on the fly. and then respond to that. you probably realize that there is a great deal of very poor confrontational communication that occurs in the electronic medium.
but is limited in situations that require dynamic direct simultaneous interaction. 1998 Page 88 .cation and is limited in its ability to get the correct tone across without careful crafting and editing of the message. absolute or uses hot words. It may be a “fast-food world” edition of letter-writing but letterwriting it is. Read it twice (at least) -. Keep in mind that e-mail is a poor medium for conflict resolution and even constructive problem solving because it is sequential and lacks the brainstorming type feature that can occur in face-to-face communication. the other person has NO way of knowing. The best path of action is a) to ignore such people or b) to stick to the issues and not take the bait they © Robert Bacal. Is it a big deal or a little one? If you don’t address this specifically. so being exceptionally terse. While you can use these little graphics. short-winded. For example. because of the anonymity of the Internet medium. That’s why there is a very high level of miscommunication related to electronic communication. are going to be rude. These are used mostly on the Internet to convey that an email poster is joking or angry. convey HOW concerned you are.. if you have a concern about a project. since it lacks the ability for on-the-fly correction if something you write sounds harsh. Consider using e-mail as an adjunct to face-to-face or telephone problem-solving rather than as a replacement. E-mail can best be used to move information and facts around. These can be problematic for people who don’t understand their meaning. poor communicators who feel no responsibility for the effects their communication might have. arrogant. Guidelines and Tips For The Use of E-mail In The Workplace When sending e-mail always reread what you have written before sending it on. Much public Internet communication is inflammatory. Once you send e-mail you can’t erase it or correct it. or sad. etc. If face-to-face communication requires the use of cooperative communication techniques. can be problematic with respect to accurately portraying your feeling. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace We need to understand that e-mail is most like letter-writing. We need to treat it accordingly in the workplace or risk miscommunicating and creating unnecessary conflict. e-mail needs it even more. or who read e-mail quickly (a very common occurrence). it’s time to take it to face-to-face or telephone IMMEDIATELY When communicating in public forums with strangers (via the Internet) understand that you will meet people who. despite the appearance of it being like face-to-face. it is better to be very clear about your emotional state in the body of the email. E-mail has evolved a set of symbols designed to convey emotional state. using too much slang.once for content (does it say what it should) and once for tone (does it accurately reflect your emotional state). Keep in mind that people will read it like a letter. authoritarian. and is going to react as if it is a big deal. When you sense that an e-mail exchange with a colleague is getting emotionally charged.
there is no guarantee that the person receiving the email will take the time to read slowly and carefully.offer. Edit. That means that despite your best efforts. 1998 Page 89 . In fact the opposite is more likely. and people not yet having learned how to make use of it properly. Keypoints Electronic communication (e-mail) is an important tool in the workplace. Consider that such things are a result of two things--the nature of the medium. and reflect on content and tone before sending e-mail. When misunderstanding or conflict emerges from even a well-thought out email you have sent. Remember that e-mail communication is an “instant” medium. and reflect before responding to e-mail that seems a bit offensive to you. but also has the potential to create unnecessary conflict if used without reflection or thought. It may take us several decades more to reach the point where most people understand its limitations and appropriate uses. whether you are sending or receiving. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace © Robert Bacal. don’t overreact. The prime concern is to treat it more like letter writing in the workplace rather than casual conversation. Always keep in mind that misunderstanding may be the norm with e-mail.
1998 Page 90 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section XII Question & Answer Session Does One Size Fit All? Absolutes & Motivation Healthiness & Pent Up Anger Gossip The Preponderance of Conflict © Robert Bacal.
and forget there are limits..some people really do need a smack upside the head every once in a while. My experience is that some things work well with some people. I play a kind of motivating role. In this section. It’s always a good bet to start with the gentlest phrasing and gradually work up to firmer. but it must fit the context. all communication should be driven by what you are trying to accomplish. once in a while. and our own levels of comfort.. conflict prevention and defusing hostility tactics tend to have some common concerns and questions. provided the relationship is such that this will have some possibility of succeeding. Are there times when using absolute language is a GOOD thing? Answer: Yes. etc. and is certainly not very inspiring. and not so well with others. we are going to address some of those in a question and answer format. and using those techniques sounds a lot like waffling.. the use of more absolute and dramatic language is useful. it may even be useful to tell someone to “cut the crap”. If your goal is to motivate. If he communicated the same © Robert Bacal. the specific person. How should we deal with this reality? Answer: It’s probably accurate to say that we all need to tailor our approaches to the specific situation.I mean. In my team. In a sense. In other words each situation IS different. encourage or prop up someone or to energize people. And. more assertive statements and actions. sometimes. The trick is to observe how the interaction is going at any point in time and be prepared to shift gears. You can see how this can be used by observing very successful dramatic public speakers (Tom Peters is a good example). Absolutes & Over-dramatization Question: I have a particular concern with the technique of qualifying statements (perhaps. rarely. 1998 Page 91 . His use of drama and absolutes is effective with large groups of people where he needs to be larger than life. and perhaps advisable.) and avoiding over-dramatizations.Questions & Answers Conflict Prevention In The Workplace People exposed initially to cooperative communication. or they tend to get carried away. One Size Fits All? Question: It sounds like you are recommending that we apply these techniques across all people and situations.
Most people understand it isn’t OK to slug someone in the workplace and don’t feel that is an unreasonable restriction. The issue isn’t bottling things up. When we express our anger in more confrontational ways. he would lose a great deal of credibility. I’m not a manager here. because the person at the other end is going to fight back. A huge amount of time seems to be wasted. You are free to express your anger and frustration in a way that is constructive and will help resolve the situation. etc.? Answer: Gossip. and trust levels seem to be suffering. Which results are healthier or less stressful? Gossip Question: In my office I find that there seems to be a great deal of back-channel communication. The bottom line: You can express your feelings like a champagne cork going off but not do anything to prevent the problem from occurring. The worst cases of burnout and stress I have seen come from people who mistakenly thought that provoking conflict was a way to address their own levels of anger and stress. It’s the opposite. Consider another point.way with an individual in an office somewhere. though. You aren’t free to express your anger in violent or abusive ways. Doesn’t the use of cooperative communication mean that I can’t express my feelings honestly? Answer: First. and express your emotions assertively in a way that may result in the problem being fixed forever. back-channel communication about absent third parties and innuendo can cause © Robert Bacal. it probably isn’t healthy to bottle up one’s frustration. 1998 Page 92 . what we are doing is setting ourselves up for more long term anger and grief. particularly when dealing with nasty people. The level of drama and absoluteness is determined by the goal of the communication and the context. Any ways I can contribute to reducing the gossip. so I can’t order things to be different. particularly over the long term. backbiting and gossip. or you can exert some self-control. Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Healthiness and Pent-Up Anger Question: I’ve been told that it isn’t good to bottle up one’s frustration and anger. We are trying to apply the same principles to verbal interaction.
the hard-core gossips or backbiters will have less of a forum. if that’s what you want to talk about.. but rarely as a habit.that is. we need to look to childhood. when colleagues attempt to draw you into a gossip session. Is this really true and if so. Babies and young children are basically quite self-centred. First.. Or: “I don’t find that talking about someone like this helps me or the team.it is only later that we learn other ways of getting along with people. So. so I would rather not hear about these kinds of things”. Most do it sometimes. There are a number of ways to do that. why is it so? Why don’t people realize that things work out better when they try to get along? Answer The answer is a bit complicated and has to do with how we develop as children and how and when we learn language. First. rather than cooperating. You may find that doing that consistently is going to have some positive effects. support you and follow your example. they are playing in self-centred ways and happen to be together. but engage in what is called parallel play. As more and more people take this position. If your team has established ground rules that address back-channel communication. it is quite possible that others who feel like you but haven’t been able to figure out how to say it will contact you.. I don’t think it’s fair to talk about Mary this way when she isn’t here. It takes a number of years for children to begin playing cooperatively. you can introduce it for discussion. First. To understand why. and that we all use confrontational communication quite frequently. For example: “You know. Apart from your own personal behaviour and the example you set. As adults most of us are capable of © Robert Bacal. The Preponderance Of Confrontational Communication Question In your discussions you suggest that as few as 10% of people are consistently good at cooperative communication. you might want to bring this issue up in a staff/team meeting. For example. as an issue to improve the team. politely but firmly refuse to take part. Has any parent not wondered why the word NO seems to be acquired and used so early? So in fact we learn self-centred and conflict-provoking language first. We learn language during a time of life where we are essentially self-centred. If not. again being polite. even when playing with other children actually don’t play “with” them. I think I’ll move on”. and many of the first forms of language we learn have to do with what we want or don’t want. it DOES appear that very few people in the general population communicate cooperatively in a consistent way.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace serious damage to the levels of trust and productivity. 1998 Page 93 . young children.. you can remind people of the agreement. Since much of this activity is “hidden” it is particularly hard to deal with but here are two suggestions.
but fail to do so when under stress or pressure. or people are angry or frustrated they go back to what they have learned best. most of the comedy and humour we surround ourselves with is at the expense of others. However. when stress levels are high. There are some other factors related to our cultures and media. and a much smaller number of people have learned and practised the cooperative communication skills so they use them virtually all the time. We don’t have very good role models in our cultures.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace getting along with others (although there are exceptions) in calm situations or slowmoving ones. In addition. More than one person has noticed that angry hostile adults’ behaviour can resemble that of a two year old child. So. © Robert Bacal. It isn’t surprising that we tend to be confrontation-provoking when the media heroes of multi-generations have included the John Wayne tough guy. the Dirty Harry enforcer. some people never learned how to communicate and get along well with others. 1998 Page 94 . and that is the more self-centred ways of communicating learned in childhood. which is also what they learned first. Most of us have learned to do so.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace Section XI Some Closing Comments © Robert Bacal. 1998 Page 95 .
we invite you to contact us to see how we can help you with custom-designed seminars on the subject. We recommend that you consider additional reading. To learn how to be consistent and thorough requires you to pay attention to the little ways that you contribute to conflict. Canada.ca/~rbacal © Robert Bacal. 1998 Page 96 . and apply constructive. So. we can offer discounts for orders of ten or more copies. and the little ways you can use to prevent conflict. there is a lot more to interpersonal communication and conflict prevention than we could fit in a book even twice the size of this one. contribute only a little bit. In addition. As with any subject. a few final comments are in order. etc. conflict management. and increase their ability to deal with conflict when it occurs. So the key is consistency and thoroughness. Where success occurs it is a result of people who learn to modify their language and behaviour in many ways.ca Internet Web Page: http://www. Mb. We have tried to outline a number of techniques to help teams and workgroups reduce unnecessary conflict. and keep the results positive. Winnipeg. Conflict-preventers simply do what they do everyday in everything they do. negotiating. cooperative communication consistently. R3R 0S2 (204) 888-9290 Internet E-Mail: rbacal@escape. if you would like to buy copies of this book for all your team colleagues. For teams and individuals who may be interested in a more active learning experience with respect to conflict prevention. what’s the ultimate key to conflict prevention? There is no single magic solution or prescription because conflict prevention occurs as a result of consistent application of a number of “little” things that.escape. Our contact information can be found below. Good luck! Contact Information Bacal & Associates/Institute For Cooperative Communication 252 Cathcart St. Most bookstores carry books and material on related topics such as dealing with difficult people.Closing Comments Conflict Prevention In The Workplace As we come to the end of this Keynote Series book. by themselves.
1998 Page 97 .Conflict Prevention In The Workplace © Robert Bacal.
Conflict Prevention In The Workplace © Robert Bacal. 1998 Page 98 .
About The Author Robert Bacal holds degrees in psychology and applied psychology and has been involved in teaching. team development. Also featured are sections on defusing hostile interactions when they occur.. Winnipeg.95 . The Institute For Cooperative Communication.. Bacal & Associates 252 Cathcart St.and many more The book explains the difference between constructive and ugly conflict in the workplace. Canada R3R 0S2 (204) 888-9290 E-mail: rbacal@escape. you need to read this book.. this book helps you identify conflict-provoking language and behaviours and suggests ways you can replace them with more cooperative approaches. Mb. not against us. what teams and managers can do to create a climate of cooperation. and is currently CEO of Bacal & Associates and sister company. If you have ever asked the following questions. • What is the difference between good conflict and bad? • What can my team do to reduce conflict levels in the group? • Why does it seem some people seem to be conflict-immune? • How can I be perceived as cooperative and helpful rather than confrontational? • What specific words and phrases tend to create ongoing personality conflict? • When issues get heated. training and research for over twenty years. and offers ways of replacing confrontation causing talk with more cooperative communication that encourages others to work with us. Current activities include writing and training in the areas of interpersonal communication.Conflict Prevention In The Workplace About This Book Based on the idea that it makes more sense to prevent workplace conflict than to wait until it shows itself in destructive ways. identifies confrontation-provoking communication that we all use.ca ISBN Price: 0-9683722-7-9 $31. customer service and defusing angry and manipulative people. how can I cool things down and encourage people to listen? • How can we reduce frustration in team meetings? • . and conflict in electronic communication. worked for and consulted with government agencies. He has trained and supervised teachers.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.