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When you work closely with a team of people every day, there are bound to be occasional disagreements. It can be frustrating when you don’t see eye to eye with a co-worker, but you can keep a small argument from escalating into a serious conflict by communicating clearly.


Improve your communication skills by keeping these simple steps in mind, and you will strengthen your work relationships.


1. Pay attention to your voice.

Do you have a tendency to raise your voice when you get upset? Do you sometimes adopt a sarcastic tone when you argue? Take an honest look at these habits, and think about how they may affect the person you are talking to. Catch yourself when you start to yell or use a negative tone of voice. Try to speak in a calm, even voice; when you find yourself getting upset, pause to collect yourself and then continue more slowly.  


2. Focus on mutual understanding.

If you are intent on proving you are right and winning the argument, you aren’t going to make any progress in solving the problem. Practice active listening, one of the most important communication skills, instead of just thinking of what you are going to say next. Ask questions to clarify what the other person is saying, and try to see the problem from his or her perspective. Setting a good example by listening attentively will make the other person more willing to listen to you. If you disagree, express your opinion respectfully and without personal attacks.


3. Don’t get sidetracked.

Sometimes while discussing one problem, you may bring up past conflicts or related issues to prove your point. Resist the temptation to do this; it is rarely productive and can often exacerbate the current problem. Focus on the issue at hand and avoid unnecessary distractions.


4. Take responsibility.

If you are at fault in a situation, admit that you were wrong and take ownership of the mistake. If you both can be honest about your mistakes and apologize, it is much easier to work toward a solution.


5. Take a breather.

If a disagreement is getting too heated and you are in danger of losing your temper, take a break. Go grab a cup of coffee or take a quick walk around the block, then come back to the discussion when you’ve cooled down.


5. Search for a compromise.

Instead of fighting to get your way, consider alternative solutions that might work for both of you. Be creative and try to find a compromise that will give you both what is most important to you.


What communication skills are the most challenging for you? How are you working to improve them?


Take the DISCself online personality test  to find out more about your communication style.


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