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There are ways of communicating that can help manage emotional responses to disagreement

Chapter 5 Disagreements can escalate into confrontations


When disagreements arise, participants can react negatively if they do not feel safe. Joseph Grenny Share this expert JG Joseph Grenny believes that fear drives two key types of reactions to a conflict are either silence or violence . Silence is when someone stops engaging in the conversation and violence is when the emotions take over and the words and body language become more aggressive.

Disagreeing well requires objectivity rather than emotions. But in high-stakes disagreements, it can be hard to leave your emotions at the door. There are several behaviors that can diffuse the emotional response. They can also contribute to creating a safe environment for the conversation in which nobody feels threatened.

  • Appropriate communication: Be kind and polite ensuring non-verbal communication is in line with what is being said e.g. tone of voice, body language.
  • Encourage others to share ideas: Listen to and value the ideas of others by letting them influence your thinking.
  • Balance criticism with praise and recognition: Recognize the positive aspects of a contribution before refuting what you disagree with.
  • Explicit rules of engagement: Rules to guide behavior in situations of disagreement and ensure everyone is heard and respected.
  • Understand communication preferences: Adapt your communication style to the person you are trying to influence and remember that others may interpret things differently than you intended.
  • Focus on the problem , not the people: Making a disagreement personal is likely to lead to escalation. Separate psychological aspects of the negotiation from the problem itself can make a challenge easier to overcome.
  • Assume good intention : Instead of taking offense to something someone said, assume they had good intentions and were trying to address the challenge at hand.
  • Don’t blame others or tell them how they feel: Blaming others is a surefire way to garner a negative reaction.
  • Using “I” statements : Explain your own thoughts, views, and feelings. Acknowledge your own contribution to any misunderstanding. Avoid “you” statements.
  • Perspective taking : Try to see the problem from the perspective of the other person. Or imagine you are a fly on the wall, just an outside observer witnessing the disagreement. Think in the 3rd person or think in another language to distance yourself from the challenge.
  • Focus on a common goal: Ignore issues from the past and try to create solutions for the future.
  • Practice mindfulness: Modulate your own emotional response to high-stakes conversations. Take a timeout if it’s getting heated and come back to the conversation when the emotion has subsided.
  • Inject humor: Use humor to relieve tension from a conversation where possible.
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