It can happen to all of us at one time or another.  You find yourself in the middle of an argument with the other person yelling at you full throttle in an angry rant.

While this type of situation hopefully doesn’t happen often for you, when it does, we’re often ill-equipped to handle them.

But how you handle these exchanges can be critical to our relationships because they usually happen with people closest to us.  So, when you find yourself in the next difficult conversation with a loved one or close friend, be prepared with these 4 powerful tips:

1.        Remain calm.

When you already have one person overreacting, you don’t want to add proverbial fuel to the fire and make things worse.  For specific ways to keep calm during conflict, check out this post.

 2.        Ignore the drama.

Or better yet, visualize the other person as a child having a temper tantrum.  Believe it or not, this works to put you in a problem-solving frame of mind.

I had a client who was able to resolve conflicts with her ex by knowing when it was time to “put a lollypop in his mouth,” figuratively of course.  This allows you to dismiss the drama and get to the underlying problem.

3.        Ask questions.

Once they stop yelling, it’s generally best to start asking questions to get them thinking.  This engages the rational part of their brain.  What you want is to move an angry situation toward the possibility of negotiating.  You might ask “how can I help with that?”

It generally helps to steer clear of making statements or explaining why you’re right so they “understand.”  It doesn’t work and typically puts the other person on the defensive.

According to political expert Frank Luntz in Words That Work , “it’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.”

4.        Actively listen.

While listening, think about why they might be saying what they’re saying.  How do they see things?

Then you can respond precisely to how they’re feeling instead of what they’re actually saying.  For example, “that must be really scary.”

What I’ve learned is this.  The way we handle conflict in our relationships tends to define the strength of those relationships.

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