Main Content

Controversial Conversational Situations

The threat level of “0” characterizes the normal everyday office life for offices that are open to the public. Stressful situations that require communication skills on the part of the employees may very well occur. Controversial conversational situations resemble more of a discussion than an expression of verbal violence. The responsibility of handling controversial conversational situations should lie with the employees themselves.

Recommendations for action:

  • Threat-Aware Setup of the Office

    For the purposes of self-protection, it is important to set up the office design according to safety standards. Simple precautionary and behavioral measures include, for example:

    • Situate the participants in the discussion such that employees have the shortest path to the door.
    • Do not leave any dangerous objects (scissors, letter openers, etc.) within reach of the participants in the discussion.
    • Set up offices such that an escape route is always present, and always keep escape routes clear.

    The Department of Occupational Safety and Environmental Protection at Philipps-Universität Marburg can provide you with additional information and advice on the subject of “Setting Up a Secure Office Workplace.”

  • Threat-Aware Agreements

    If possible, make preparations for discussions with difficult people. This includes informing colleagues in the adjoining office or the supervisor about an upcoming, potentially conflict-laden meeting. Make sure to also inform each other about suspicious people in the building.

  • Make provisions for problematic people

    If it is foreseeable that a scheduled consultation meeting with a person has the potential for conflict, special precautionary measures should be taken in advance. For example:

    • If possible, difficult conversations should not be conducted alone and should never be conducted outside of business hours.
    • The persons should notice that the employees are not alone.
    • If possible, the door to the adjoining office should be open.
    • It is advisable to arrange special agreements (code words) with colleagues in order to get help quickly.
    • It is recommended that a neutral meeting room be used for sensitive discussions instead of your own


  • Communication

    The deliberate use of behaviors that promote conversation, such as an open seating posture, eye contact, showing interest and active listening, can contribute significantly to a constructive conversational situation. The following actions and behaviors can support conflict-free communication:

    • Assuming an upright, open posture,
    • Repeatedly making eye contact and remaining calm,
    • Adjusting to the different types of customers,
    • Utilizing active listening techniques,
    • Not acting in an aggressive or negative way (body language, voice, facial expression),
    • Formulating answers in a positive way; frustrate customers as little as possible as disappointment can lead to aggression,
    • Remaining calm and considerate in the face of verbal abuse and not taking it as a personal insult.