Emotions permeate everything we do, including in the workplace. It’s great to see conversations in the workplace that are driven by passion, commitment, belief, and even a little frustration at times – all of which can have positive, motivating impacts. But sometimes the emotion can obstruct and even sabotage the issue (that goes for both positive and negative emotions).

Here are some strategies to help you navigate emotional conversations to a positive outcome.

  • Observe the emotions present in conversations; be mindful of them crossing the threshold from being productive emotions (which can include low-level negative emotions) to unproductive and even obstructionist; this can include overly positive emotions that cloud proper judgement or analysis of consequences, risks and challenges.
  • When conversations start to get heated – if someone is overtly angry or upset – take a breath and keep control of your own emotions. Break the circuit; offer a glass of water if appropriate. It could be helpful to take a break and reconvene.
  • Changing the environment will change the energy; move to a different location if possible, or suggest the individual gets some fresh air.
  • Check your intent before jumping into the conversation: don’t jump in to ‘fix the person’ but to ‘think’ with them to see new options going forward.
  • Come from an observer’s perspective rather than being emotionally involved. Listen. Understand the other person’s perspective, be curious about how they are feeling and why, while building rapport with them.
  • Validate the individual’s concerns, be empathetic.
  • To help the individual work towards a resolution, ask open questions, such as ‘how can I support you?’ ‘what would you like to be different?’ ‘what do you need to achieve that?’

Finish the conversation on a positive note with either a commitment to circle back when appropriate, or a plan to move forward.