Keeping Your Cool in the Heat of Workplace Conflict

Disagreements are normal in all relationships; those with significant others, friends, family, and yes, even coworkers. Today, many of us spend more time with our colleagues than with some friends and family members, making it especially important to learn how to resolve differences of opinion in the workplace in a professional and respectful manner.

Whether you are conflict-averse (yes, you – the one hiding under your desk to avoid an awkward exchange) or more of a hot-headed firecracker, these five tips will help you to keep your cool and avoid office drama, particularly if you have the added stress of living with multiple sclerosis:

1. Count to 10

The same trick that we teach kids fighting on the playground – breathing slowly and counting to 10 to calm down – can work for adults too. Before firing off a reply to a harshly-worded email, pause and think through how to draft an effective and professional response.

2. Get Outside for Some Fresh Air

In times of stress, a change of scenery can do you good. Physically separating yourself from a frustrating situation forces you to take a step back and reevaluate the issue from a different angle. A disagreement may appear smaller from outside your cubicle!

3. Keep Calm and Jam On

Need a quick pick me up before facing a conflict head-on? Throw on your headphones and blast your favorite song. Music is said to improve your mood and boost confidence – exactly what you need before heading into what may be an uncomfortable conversation.

4. Lean on Your Manager for Support

A manager’s job is to provide support and career counsel to those they manage. Be sure to leverage their years of experience and tap them for any questions related to conflict management. Be sure to avoid the “blame game” and instead ask for tips on how to best work with others to maintain positive relationships.

5. Watch Your Language

When the time comes to sit down with a coworker to resolve a disagreement, be sure to engage using “I” statements – “I feel,” “I think,” “I understand.” These phrases allow you to express your point of view while also taking ownership of your feelings. Using “You” statements – “You did,” “You think,” “You said” – can present themselves as immature or unwilling to take responsibility for your actions.

Workplace conflict is never ideal, but don’t let it intimidate you! Learning to manage and solve problems in a professional setting will help you to communicate more effectively in all life’s relationships.

If you ever experience a disagreement with a colleague related to your diagnosis, flag the incident to your manager and a HR representative. Discrimination due to illness or disability is never okay, and most countries have laws to protect you in the workplace.

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