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Defuse a Screamer by Applying Critical Conversation Skills

Screaming matches in the office increase tensions while reducing productivity. With the right critical conversation skills, you can address screaming, yelling, and arguing behavior and focus on solving the problem.

Some screamers really scream; others choose to use technology to scream for them. You can address the problem behavior in the same way — just don’t do it over e-mail. Here’s how:

  • Examine what’s happening: When the screamer is screaming, you can say, “I notice you’re raising your voice when someone else presents their ideas. What is the goal of your communication?” That’s a good way to present the facts and then ask why the behavior is happening.

    Or if you’re talking with an employee after the meeting, say, “In last week’s meeting, I noticed that you yelled at the team members when they didn’t complete a task on time. What was the goal of your communication?”

    If you’re dealing with an e-mail screamer, pick up the phone or walk over to her office, and state the same thing, “I noticed that you tend to use capital letters in your responses. I feel that these capital letters are the same as screaming at another individual. What message do you want to send with the e-mail?”

    This is the right place to acknowledge the other person’s feelings and opinions. For example, “I understand you want people to know that this topic is important to you.”

  • Decide on options: Listen to the entire conversation before replying. You might also try asking for clarification. Say, “Are you willing to work together to find another way to let people know that you’re passionate about a topic?”

  • If necessary, you may need to take a break and specify the consequences of the behavior on the group. Say, “People stop listening to you when you scream,” or, “People delete your e-mails.”

Very few people just yell for the sake of yelling. Find out what’s driving the behavior and then focus on that intention.

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