By Marta Svetek (University of Warwick)

We’ve all been there. It might have been at university, high school, elementary school or anything in between.

Hardly anyone has tread down the scholarly path without finding themselves in a group assignment or project at some point.

These are the times when a teammate displays such an uncanny ability to evoke the fieriest pits of rage that you never even knew you had.

Being of a more temperamental nature myself, I have had many such moments where I’ve snapped, yelled, or stormed out of the room to cool off for a few minutes, but while sometimes this just has to happen, it’s always best not to let it go that far.

1.  From my experience the most important thing is to know what your “buttons” are and have a few strategies handy to keep cool and calm when someone starts pressing them. If people blow up every time there’s a disagreement, your team will become increasingly uncomfortable.

This can be very “trial and error”, but be persistent and analyse in retrospect. It might just be a classmate doing it now, but in a few years it could be your boss!

Note: Keeping calm does not mean ignoring. 
  • To work together you need to communicate, and ignoring your teammate is one of the worst things you can do
  • They might have horrendous communication skills, but nevertheless calmly consider what they have to say, see if there’s room for compromise and accept their criticism. 

I stress this last point because too many times I have seen people take the calm road as a means of condescension, and that only provokes more fights.

2. Another skill to cultivate is recognizing the warning signs of a fight and knowing when to call for a short break.

  • Are the arguments becoming more personal?
  • Are there snide comments being made?
  • Is the volume up? Etc.

Disagreements are part of teamwork, but learning how to turn them to the team’s advantage is a strategy for success in its own right. So keep calm, keep those goals in mind and listen to better understand views from both sides.  Good luck!

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