In our professional lives, navigating relationships with colleagues and clients can sometimes feel like a minefield. There often seems to be someone making every interaction a challenge.

The good news is effective and skilled communication can help to forge stronger connections.

Rather than continuing to fuel the friction, we thought we’d share a few top tips to help you find a calmer interaction.

Listen with Intent

One of the most undervalued yet crucial aspects of communication is listening. When dealing with difficult people, it’s essential not just to hear their words but to understand their underlying concerns or frustrations. Active listening involves more than just waiting for your turn to speak; it means truly understanding what the other person is trying to convey.

Empathy goes a long way 

Put yourself in their shoes – a cliché, yes, but one that holds immense power. Empathy is the secret ingredient that can turn a tense interaction into a productive exchange. Try to understand the driving behaviour for people’s motivations. By acknowledging another’s perspective, you demonstrate respect and openness, laying the groundwork for a more harmonious relationship.

Choose your words wisely

Words have the power to heal or harm, especially in delicate situations. Use language that is diplomatic, respectful, and devoid of aggression. Avoid using inflammatory phrases as this only escalates tensions. Instead, focus on constructively expressing your thoughts and concerns, aiming for mutual understanding and resolution.

Seek common ground

It’s easy to get lost in opposing viewpoints. However, there’s often common ground to be found if you’re willing to seek it out. By highlighting common goals and shared objectives, you shift the focus from discord to cooperation, fostering a more positive and productive atmosphere.

Stay calm and collected

Maintaining your composure in the face of adversity is key to diffusing tense situations. Resist the temptation to react impulsively or defensively. Instead, take a deep breath and respond in a calm and composed manner. By remaining level-headed, you demonstrate professionalism and maturity, earning respect in the process.

Set boundaries

While communication is vital for building relationships, it’s equally important to establish boundaries when dealing with challenging individuals. Clearly define acceptable behaviours and consequences for crossing the line. By asserting your boundaries firmly but respectfully, you send a message that certain behaviours will not be tolerated, thereby preserving your dignity and self-respect.

Practice patience and persistence

Strong relationships require patience and persistence. Don’t expect instant results or dramatic transformations overnight. Instead, commit to consistently improving communication and cultivating trust over time. Remember, small steps can lead to significant progress in the long run.

Seek support if needed

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, communication barriers persist. In such cases, don’t hesitate to seek support from a mentor, coach, or HR professional. They can offer valuable insights, guidance, and mediation to help navigate complex interpersonal dynamics effectively.