Learn to Pause: A Guide for Managing Tense Conversations in Team Settings

Learn to Pause: A Guide for Managing Tense Conversations in Team Settings


In team settings, the problem of conversations becoming tense is not uncommon. You might have noticed that people start talking over each other in order to prove their points. It leads to unproductive dynamics and strained relationships.

I have noticed that people become oppositional in tense conversations, rather than trying to understand the opposite perspective. For the sake of preserving a positive team environment, it is essential to identify and respond to these situations immediately. Learning to pause and take time to consider and address the underlying issues before continuing is one efficient strategy.

In this blog, I will discuss the power of pausing to manage tense conversations in a team setting. You may indulge in a healthy debate but do not try to make your point without understanding others, when the conversation starts to go downhill. Because of my career choices I had to be in several team settings. To be honest, my visions and perspectives were different from many on those teams. Therefore, it leads to tense conversations.

Example of a complicated conversation:

I would like to share a story of such an incident, which has taught me that pausing in the midst of tense conversations helps in fostering a positive environment. In the initial days of my career, I got associated with a maritime project with a team of five members. We had to conduct meetings, in order to ensure the welfare of the project.

One such meeting was organised. The meeting got off to a good start on this particular day. Ideas circulated around, and everyone appeared interested. However, over time, a disagreement arose over an important choice that needed to be made. As voices rose and displeasure became apparent, the discussion turned increasingly tense.

Reasons leading to tense conversations:

Team members gradually started to voice their complaints, worries, and fears. I paid close attention, summarising their ideas to make sure I understood them completely. As the discussion went on, it became clear that the tension was caused by a concern about being misunderstood and a lack of agreement on the project’s course.

As I delved deeper into the situation, I realised that the heated argument would continue if none of the team members decided to stop and understand the situation. Each one of the members had their own points, which are supposedly true. No one was ready to listen to others’ opinions in order to solve the situation. At that time, the most important thing was to pause.

Significance of pausing mid conversation:

I stopped proving my point in that situation and asked them to perform the brainstorming activity, which would increase collaboration and eventually stop the heated discussion. The most important and first step to manage that tense conversation was my pause in the discussion and giving an idea that had resolved the situation afterwards.

You have to embrace the power of pause like me. “Have the fortitude to pause during unpleasant conversations rather than speeding through them.” Recognise that going forward is not as crucial as dealing with underlying factors. By taking a break, you develop trust among team members, provide a secure environment for candid communication, and avoid problems from escalating.

Fostering positive environment:

Another thing that I have learned from my experience is the importance of psychological safety. Effectively handling difficult conversations requires maintaining psychological safety. Ascertain that the group has built a foundation of trust and established behavioural norms. Team members can feel free to communicate their ideas and feelings in this setting without worrying about criticism or retaliation.

I used to listen to my team members, without forcing my opinion on them. Some of their opinions were not compatible with mine, but instead of continuing the heated conversation, I used to pause and let them finish. After that I used to suggest ideas that might take us all to an agreed solution.

Important techniques to learn:

There is also another important practice, which you can use to manage this type of situation. ‘Three Ns’ which stands for notice, name, and next steps. It means you have to notice the signs, whether the conversations are taking negative turns or not. You have to remain self-aware in this type of situation.

After that you have to name or address the issues that are making your team members argue with each other. It helps in bringing the hidden tension to the surface, which can ultimately be resolved. The next steps include appropriate actions. As I suggested brainstorming in one of those tense conversations among team members, it helped us to resolve the conflicts we were facing and made us the strongest team for the project.

The team turned a potentially negative scenario into a chance for growth by confronting the difficult dialogue head-on and practising the art of pausing. We developed closer ties, had a better knowledge of one another, and ultimately came to an agreement that pleased everyone. Everyone on our team understood the need of taking a moment to acknowledge tensions and engage in respectful conversation ever since.

We mastered the art of handling challenging talks after realising that by appreciating the power of pausing, they could overcome obstacles and create a more harmonic and effective work atmosphere. Ultimately, we managed to make the project successful.


Maintaining trust, unity, and team success requires the ability to stop and manage tense conversations. You can handle challenging situations with grace by being aware of the warning signals, appreciating the value of pausing, and employing techniques like the Three Ns, open-ended inquiries, active listening, and a learning positive attitude.

Just keep in mind that while it requires guts and practice, the rewards in terms of team relationships and results are well worth the effort. Therefore, the next time you find yourself in a contentious discussion, keep in mind to halt, consider, and resolve the underlying concerns before continuing.

After all, according to me, a positive mindset is the most important thing, which allows us to pause in such situations. First of all learn to be positive and then make a pause amidst difficult conversations to remove all the negatives from the team.

Leave a Reply