When you’re THISCLOSE to flipping out at work because someone’s spewing crazy nonsense, come join us over here in the Emotional Intelligence corner.

Today’s lesson is: “Use Your Words”. In 3 doable steps.

1. Stop and Think

Sometimes when we are feeling hurt or slighted, it helps to remember that everyone has lives and issues – shocking, I know! No matter what the reason – personal, professional, whatever, it’s important that you give yourself the chance to pause. Take a walk around the block, call a friend from your Cat Appreciation Club – anything to give yourself the chance to actually have and process your feelings. I love this actionable list of coping tips for crummy days. And even then, we have a responsibility to question our initial reactions and ask – “did they intend to hurt my feelings?” If the answer is “no”, you are now empowered by a “choose your battles” moment – brush it off, let it go, and move on, or try to talk to them about it. Ready to talk? Keep reading.

2.“I” Statements

One of the first (and best) conflict resolution tools I ever learned, the “I” Statement, is a pretty great baby step to strong but polite confrontation – and the beginning of a productive conversation. A good example of an “I” Statement is:

“I feel frustrated when you don’t call me at the time we agreed you’d call”.

Putting your perception and reaction first helps the listener know that you are opening up to them, sharing your side of the story, and asking them to consider how their actions impact others. Here’s a great blog about “I” Statements, if you want to learn more.

3. Active Listening

Active Listening is not just about actually making eye contact and nodding at all the right moments. It happens when you try your best to remember details about what someone is saying, and pay attention to how they’re feeling when they’re talking. Then, tell the speaker in your own words what you believe they meant by what they said. An example:

“What I’m hearing is that you felt hurt when I forgot to let you know I’d be in late.”

This gives the speaker an opportunity to clarify, and gives you the chance to more fully understand their point of view. Active Listening is central to any productive conversation about feelings, because hopefully your conversation partner will be able to express more fully the reasons and motivations behind their actions – and free you up to talk about some solutions. Check out this piece on the power of listening from NPR.

Next time you feel crummy at work, remember to take some time to first process your own feelings, which will help you be better able to make more helpful and productive communication choices. Conversations worth having can be challenging, and so they require time, attention to tact, and an underlying respectful and hopeful spirit. Plus, remember: in communications, as with pretty much everything else, practice makes perfect. If you want to chat about this stuff or have questions, hit me up on Twitter