Defuse most arguments in the workplace and prevent them from reoccurring

Don't bring tension in the workplace home with you. Dr. Mark Goulston provides a magic bullet for working past issues with co-workers.

There’s a lot of tension in the workplace.

It used to be that you’d suck it in at work and go home and shut down and become sullen, drink too much, and kick the dog. Oops, I’m sorry… dogs really are men’s and women’s best friend when they shower their unconditional love on you. So, let’s stick with the “shut down and sullen” response at home.

Since acting out your anger at home leads to divorce or your kids misbehaving, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the more effective you are at dealing with upset at work, especially arguments, the better for you.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic bullet to do just that?

Well… your waiting is over. Here is that magic bullet, served up to you on a silver platter to defuse most arguments in the workplace (and everywhere) and prevent them from reoccurring.

The solution actually has three steps, but they are so “Lego -block” linked together I am taking poetic license to call it a magic bullet.

Step 1: Let them fully vent and pause for two seconds.

If and when another person is venting their upset, don’t rush in to tell them to calm down. Instead, keep looking intently in their eyes (I usually focus on their left eye) and lean into it, let them fully finish and then pause and wait for two seconds. That will communicate to them that you heard them and considered what they said as opposed to rushing in too quickly which will make them feel that you didn’t listen and instead pushed back.

Step 2: Tell them they’re holding back.

After the two seconds calmly say, “You sound frustrated (or upset) and I think you’re holding back.” In all likelihood they will become confused and disarmed and respond with, “Huh?” or “What?” At that point say, “Yes, I think you’re holding back. I think you’re also angry and disappointed. Tell me what you’re most frustrated, upset and disappointed about. And give me examples of when you felt each of those the most.” Doing this is essentially applying the “Rope a Dope” that Muhammad Ali used to defeat George Foreman where Ali got him to punch himself out.

Step 3: Going forward ask what you can do and not do so they don’t have to get upset again.

Say to them, “I can understand how and why you felt all of those and I want to apologize for not understanding that before and go a step further and apologize for not even wanting to understand because I was too busy being focused on what I wanted. Going forward, what must I always do and never do so that you never have to go back to feeling any of those. It would also help if you would tell me what going forward together you and I should always do and what we should never do so that we don’t have to get to this point again.”

Think of an argument or festering resentment as an interpersonal abscess. Just as you can’t heal from an abscess if you put a bandage on it or put stitches on it without first draining it, the same is true for a psychological and emotional wound in another person (whether you caused it or not).

Applying the three steps above will enable you to pierce and then drain what is holding the other person back from a cooperative relationship with you.

SEE ALSO: 6 steps to DIY anger management

One caveat. If you would rather avoid the above steps, there is a good chance that you have an unforgiving streak in you that you might want to check out. To do that, ask people who care about you and want the best for you if they feel you hold onto grudges or let them go.

If they tell you that you hold onto grudges, don’t become defensive. In fact, apply the three steps to them by asking them how much your holding grudges cause them to feel frustrated, angry and disappointed in you.

If you’re still preferring to hold onto grudges, ask yourself who you learned it from and if you want to be like that person.

Hopefully, you’ll decide that you want to be better than that.

Join the Conversation: Share your thoughts about Dr. Goulston’s latest article and how you can apply his six steps for anger management on our Facebook page.

Dr. Mark Goulston is an award-winning business psychiatrist, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the best-selling author of seven books. His latest book, Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with Irrational and Irresponsible People in your Life can be found on Amazon. Catch up on Dr. Goulston’s previous articles here.

Connect with Dr. Goulston through FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn. His books are available on Amazon. Check out his videos on YouTube or take advantage of free resources available at

Get our latest articles, videos, and podcasts
sharing solutions to today's workforce challenges.

Sign Up to Recieve Our Newsletter