Diffuse a Stressful Conversation

It happens — a conversation takes a turn for the worse and triggers your stress response. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, it’s in your best interest to take a step back and breathe.

Use this 3-part technique to diffuse tension and discuss the issue more productively:

1. Show you’re listening. Attempt to restate the other person’s central point or concern in your own words, and then ask if you got it right. Knowing that you’re paying attention and trying to understand helps to lower their frustration.

2. Express empathy. Suspend your judgement about who’s right or wrong, and try to relate to what they’re saying and feeling. Show empathy with statements like “I can see why that would frustrate you,” and “it makes sense that you would be upset.”

3. Ask questions. If you’re enduring a stressful conversation with someone, it’s because you want to resolve the issue. Stay curious and open, and ask what you can do to make things better.

Even if the other person resists, taking this gentler approach will put you in a healthier frame of mind.