Keep your crucial conversations safe to maintain dialogue
Step out of the conversation.
This doesn’t mean physically leaving the conversation. Instead, acknowledge that things are off track and stop talking for a moment. Take the time to think about exactly what has gone wrong and make a plan to get back on track.
Apologize if necessary.
If you realize that your motives in the conversation have changed (you are point-scoring or trying to discredit others, for example), you may need to apologize. You should also apologize if your previous actions caused hurt or problems that are derailing the critical conversation. Make sure that apologies are genuine and accompanied by a genuine change of heart.
Contrasting is useful when people misinterpret your intention. For example, people may think you are trying to attack them when in reality, you simply disagree with their idea. Apologizing in this context is not the right thing to do because you haven’t done anything wrong. Instead, offer a statement with a contrast. Explain that you didn’t want to hurt them, and tell them your real intentions. Then, give a contrasting point that confirms your respect for them. For example, “I didn’t want to discredit you by disagreeing with your idea. In fact, I think that your other ideas on this project were excellent.”
Create a mutual purpose.
It’s easy for the mutual purpose to get lost when a conversation becomes unsafe. So, after apologizing and using contrast statements, you need to create a mutual purpose. For example, if you’re arguing with your spouse, pause for a moment and express what you both want in a conversation. You might say, “We both want to create a happy relationship and stop having the same argument over and over.” Having this mutual purpose creates a safe environment where you can maintain dialogue and focus on the problem at hand.