3 Questions to Diffuse a Difficult Discussion
It could be a personality conflict, different communication styles, or a misunderstanding that’s causing the problem. Whatever the root issue, you still have to work with them and find a way to get along.
Instead of writing someone off as “difficult to work with”, take ownership of the situation and try to meet them halfway. One tactic I’ve found useful in these moments is to ask neutral (read non-threatening) questions. When you’re caught in a tense moment, try one of these questions to diffuse the situation.
Can you elaborate on that statement for me?
Use this one when you’re not really sure where the other person is coming from on an issue.
What I think I heard was… Is that correct?
Repeat back what you think the other person said to make sure you understand. This communicates that you were listening and value the other person’s ideas.
What can I do to help?
If you’re depending on this person or her department to complete an important task and it’s just not getting done, ask if there’s anything you can do to help. It’s amazing what this one simple question can do to lessen the tension in the room.
Part of your ministry is to each other as members of the same team. Yes, you should push each other to improve and hold people accountable to deadlines. However, when there’s a misunderstanding and the moment gets tense, asking a few simple questions can make a big difference.
What other questions would you add to this list?