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How to respond when being verbally attacked in a conflict situation – what can you do so that you neither fight back, nor run away?
When in conflict, people tend to either get defensive and aggressive or simply avoid the conflict by running away from it. The problem is that’s not a healthy practice. Conflicts, if led right, can bring new ideas and new resolutions to the table.
When you are part of a team, at one point you are bound to get dragged into a conflict and be “attacked” by a teammate because of the difference in your opinions. Let’s focus on how we can react in these situations.
This is the so-called assertiveness – you will defend your opinion without being aggressive, nor passive towards the other person.
There are 3 useful techniques in these kinds of situations:
📌 The 1st one is by using the so-called I-statements.
People, when in conflict, tend to go in the direction of “You said that”, “No. I didn’t say that, stop putting words into my mouth” and just like that we’re in the He Said, She Said situation which leads us nowhere.
So, when you start the argument with “You said”, you put barriers between both of the parties, but if you say “From what we discussed I understood that thing” – “I understood” is a truthful statement. You could’ve understood incorrectly, but this statement leads the dispute towards yourself and your understanding and the other party won’t get so upset or angry because you’re not pointing fingers.
So when you’re expressing opinions or different points of view, you can use these I-statements – no matter if you’re expressing how you are feeling, what you believe in or what you do not agree with – the I-statement is the truth for you and it doesn’t harm the other person’s truth.
When you are attacked, there are 2 other techniques you can use – negative assertion and negative inquiry:
If somebody tells you “your idea is stupid”, you can go with either one of two ways:
❓ Negative Inquiry – “What didn’t you like about my idea?” – with this question you are requesting further, more specific criticism. You express curiosity to understand what stands behind this statement.
When you ask questions raised from curiosity, the emotion level goes down both for you and your opponent and again they are the ones who are going to continue the dispute. And they won’t feel attacked because the message we’re sending using a question out of curiosity is “I care why you think like that”.
🛑 Negative assertion – it’s an anti-bullying technique – when someone is trying to verbally bully you, for you to express that statement in a way that you agree with it.
So in this situation (“Your idea is stupid”) you can say “it’s true that sometimes my ideas are not so good”. It definitely isn’t the same as the first statement but the model is: we take the first statement and we transform it to the point where we can agree with it. You agree that sometimes your ideas are not that good, but it doesn’t mean this is one of those times.
This is a defence mechanism by which you don’t attack the other party and by doing so, the situation won’t blow up.
By using these 3 techniques, there is a significantly better chance to manage the situation in the team, to keep the team climate good and healthy, and to keep the effectiveness of the team.
Try it! 😉
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