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Alternative Resolutions column: Cooler heads always prevail in all situations (story, video)

11:39 PM, Mar. 13, 2013  |  Comments
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Q: Whenever I question my co-worker about anything he's working on, he gets defensive. When I try to let him know that I need some information or I'm simply curious about what's he's up to, his emotions escalate even further. In return, I get upset. Last week, we ended up in a shouting match and now we're barely speaking. I want to talk to him about this but am afraid that our emotions will just get the best of us again. How can we have this conversation without getting so agitated?

A: Whether at work or at home, we are emotional beings and cannot function effectively without them. Emotions become a problem at work when they get in the way of reason and constructive problem-solving and, as in your case, take charge of the situation. In order to have a productive conversation with your co-worker, you'll need to effectively manage your emotions which will help him do the same.

Prepare for prevention - Choose a place to talk that is comfortable and private. Create a ground rule around anything that is likely to push either of your buttons - no interrupting, no finger-pointing, no shouting, etc. Incorporate strategies to de-escalate destructive emotions including "I" statements, reflective listening, and time-outs.

Understand your own emotions - Is it anger you're feeling, or are you frustrated, confused, scared, hurt, nervous? Distinguish between feelings and thoughts - "I feel hurt" instead of "I feel like you don't care." Use "I" messages to take responsibility for your feelings and to constructively express your emotions - "I get frustrated when you react defensively to my questions because I can't get the information I need."

Acknowledge your co-worker's feelings - Show respect for and validate his feelings. Avoid making assumptions about his emotion and its source. Listen carefully and paraphrase to clarify and to communicate your understanding.

Empathize - Try to see things from his perspective. If you can remember that hisr emotion, is his automatic reaction to the situation, based on his internal experiences and his perception of the external situation, you won't take his feelings so personal.

Remove yourself when emotions start to escalate. Take time for cooling off. Take slow, deep breaths to help you calm down. And then determine what ground rules and strategies you'll need to keep you both on track when you try again.

When you acknowledge your emotions and manage them, you can have a productive conversation.

-Visit our website at www.alternativeresolutions.biz or call Cheryl Stinski or Karen Dorn 920-993-1490 with questions or comments and to learn how Alternative Resolutions Inc. can.

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