How to Make Tense Discussions Less Stressful

Perhaps you are negotiating with someone with a difficult personality or you are dealing with an angry customer. It might even be that you are trying to calm down team members who are getting frustrated with other members of their team. How do leaders maintain morale and prevent situations from totally collapsing when faced with such tension? Although it’s not always easy, great leaders understand the importance of de-escalating the situation in order to get everyone back on track. When discussions become heated, reduce the stress with these helpful communication tips. 


It sounds simple enough, but listening is the single most important thing you can do when discussions become tense. Oftentimes, people become angry or frustrated because they want to be heard. When you stop and listen, you are indicating that you care about the other person’s feelings and you understand what they are going through. Validate their feelings and let them know that you hear what they are saying. It might surprise you to see that the discussion immediately becomes less tense when the other person feels like they can speak and you are listening. 

Control Your Emotions

When discussions become tense, it is all too easy to let your emotions take over. We immediately feel the need to defend ourselves and our point and we might even become angry or offended by the other party’s comments. However, becoming emotional does nothing but hinder the relationship with your counterpart. Regardless of whether or not you agree with what they are saying, it’s important to stay positive and maintain control of your emotions. 

Offer Solutions

One of the best ways to diffuse a tense discussion is by offering a plausible solution. Strategize with the other team members or your counterpart about what can be done to solve the problem and demonstrate your level of commitment to coming up with a solution. Make sure they know that you are working toward a win-win solution and not just a solution that is beneficial to you. Keeping your eyes on the end goal will keep the conversation moving in the right direction. 

Treat Them with Respect

It’s easy to get flustered or upset when you are confronted with an angry person. However, if you do not know how to respond, you could end up making the situation much worse. The best thing you can do when a conversation becomes tense is to stay calm and react in a courteous way. Avoid defensiveness, as this is likely to make the other person feel even angrier. Rather, let them express their feelings while you listen attentively and then calmly and politely ask what can be done to make things right. By remaining calm and polite, it will help to calm the other person down as well so you can begin moving forward toward a solution.