angry-man-sm.jpg“Those that anger you, control you.”

I’ve heard this quote many times and it true as many times as I’ve seen it. And what’s worst is when the agitator knows it. This happens all too often in the workplace and often catches you totally unaware. By the time its past, everyone has seen a side of you that scares small children and leaves them in a mumbling state of shock. What’s worse is letting it fester and taking it home. Not Good.

So what can be done to resist the urge to wrap someone around a street sign?

You can change the way your company is thought of. That’s pretty powerful and it can be in a good way or a very bad way. Affecting it for the better is actually not all that hard. It just takes some consistency. Since confrontation can usually happens in meetings we can take a simple aspect from that and apply it to other situations whether it’s on the phone, from an Email, by a Co-worker, or through a Boss.

A Simple Guide to Conflict Resolution: Set an agenda
In a meeting it’s fairly typical to set an agenda. If one is not set you might take the initiative and do it. However, we usually don’t have one set for the way we act or interact. I suggest setting a general agenda. Here’s an Example.

Don’t be Ugly
It’s not always pleasant to speak with someone, but they’ll be a lot easier to deal with if you are. It doesn’t have to be fake. Smiling while you talk can go a long way, especially over the phone. At least keep your nose from crinkling.

Take Notes
This not only creates a record of what is being said and done, but will give you a little time to respond instead of react. By the time your done jotting things down, the issue may be resolved with nothing more than a puff of steam seeping out your ear hole.

Take a Breath
A nice deep one. This can get some oxygen to your brain and remind you of the two things above. You could also excuse yourself and go take a walk or make a phonecall.

Get Some Guidance
I’ll go talk to a fellow co-worker and ask how I should handle a situation if I can’t see past the fiery haze of rage. This also allows some time to cool off and some other insight may make things not seem so bad.

Provide a Solution
For some reason, problems are easier to focus on than solutions. I blame the school system. You really need to train yourself to see things from a solution. These can be ambiguous too, so some time can be given to the problem. For example…

“That’s a great point. We’ll discuss that and get you an answer.”
“Is it ok if we can discuss that with you in more detail afterwards?”
“John will define that and send you the info.”
“We will send a copy of this issue to Frank to discuss.”

Give Options
This puts the issue into someone else’s hands and pretty much forces them to make a decision. This also helps define a clear direction in either case, and typically the one that is less painful is the one that is chosen.

“A preliminary is needed by 9/10/07 to prevent a stop work on affected items. Please advise to proceed at risk.”

What if you’ve already erupted?
Oh man. Things are kinda uncomfortable now and people are talkin’. No worries. This is simple and amazingly effective. Go to the person and stare at them till they laugh. Just kidding. That would probably make things worse. Just say, “Sorry I blew up. Can you understand my concern?” Each time, without fail, that I’ve had to do this, it’s ended up with the person saying, “Yes, I understand, no problem…” Things are resolved and the conversation continues. This also helps greatly with confronting and communicating others.

If all else fails…
You can be passive-aggressive and send an email using punctuation substitution.

What helps you when people make you upset?


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.