Non-toxic team communication

In the process of working in a team with other people, situations often arise when someone disagrees with someone, expresses criticism (often justified and constructive, but it still hurts) or you need to discuss and make some kind of decision, and so on. Often this becomes a source of negative emotions, conflicts that interfere with work. Here I want to describe a few basic things that you can do (preferably everyone in the team, but you can start with yourself) to reduce the degree of negativity and, as a result, so that all sorts of code reviews and discussions of solutions do not upset.

The author understands that he himself is not perfect in what he writes about, but he tries to move in the right direction.

Here, within the framework of this article, describing different methods and approaches, I assume that, in general, all members of the team/team are set up constructively, strive to solve problems for the benefit of the company/team, and in principle do not mind helping each other. But this does not always work out in practice, because we are living people.

If this is not so, and there is no mood for cooperation, helping each other, for a good attitude towards each other, in principle, then all these further points will not help. In this article, we DO NOT consider such a situation and what to do with it.

In general, it often happens that one person perceived something, some phrase as an attack, an emotion went out, began to react from it, and the second one already responds to these reactions (and perceives them as a new attack on him that has begun). And in the end, for each of them it looks like “he started first, they attack me, and I defend myself, what should I do now, allow myself to be attacked?”, And this defense on defense can go around in circles endlessly. Our task is to break this vicious circle where we can influence it – that is, in ourselves. Whether there was something in the beginning or not does not greatly affect what to do.

If this is not done, then the strongest will win, and someone else will lose. But we don’t need it. We want to make the most effective decision we can make, while at the same time everyone involved is happy (at least: no one was hurt).


What can be done is to formulate it yourself in such a way that, on the one hand, it conveys the necessary information, and on the other hand, it does not offend the person to whom it is said.


In general, there should always be a motivation to help another person – to give the information that he asked for; talk about a problem that could be harmful in order to solve this problem; do something that will help another person in a particular task. It is with this motivation to give advice, feedback, information.

First, there is the method of non-violent communication. A very good thing, in the part where you need to explain to someone why you don’t like something, it’s uncomfortable, give some kind of feedback. Explain to others why you are doing what you meant by those words or actions. You can read about this separately – there are books, trainings, articles, etc. Here I’ll just note that this is, in principle, there.

Secondly, try to formulate your suggestions and comments as much as possible from the point of view of usefulness and substance of the issue. Not pointing out the personality of a century, its qualities, but pointing out why this or that decision is good or bad, with an argument on the merits.

Not “you just don’t understand how to write code correctly”, but “Here you need to apply not this, but this. Because it eliminates such and such problems and allows us to achieve such and such results, namely, they are what we need in this task. But this contradicts the agreements that we came to yesterday together with you on the basis that such an approach has certain side effects that do not suit us in this technical system.”

Thirdly, it is worth separating explicitly proposals that are “100% exactly super correct and do not need to be discussed, but must be taken and done as they said” from proposals that really only “offer” some option, but leave acceptance the final decision is up to those who deal with this issue.

That is, not “here do it like this”, but “here, as an option, you can do it like this”. Then a person has a choice – which of the solutions to apply, instead of defending himself from a crowd of people who come and say “how do you live”)))

If, nevertheless, there is a need to “do it this way”, and you are in a position that allows you to do it, then it would still be useful for the future to explain why this particular decision is correct in this situation.

Fourth, be open to dialogue and feedback. Another person can always clarify, ask again something about your proposal, thought, and this is normal and natural: “Did I understand correctly, why do you think that this will solve this problem, why such and such a problem is less important than this one, etc. And you have to be ready to explain. And learn the arguments of the other side. Before you agree or disagree, you still need to find out what the idea, information, proposal is, what is the meaning, essence. And then you can give your feedback on it.

It’s like in chess: everyone makes his move one at a time, and then he lets his partner in the game make his move, then he makes his new move, and so on.

If you only throw in your proposals, but run away from feedback on them, then this is an avoidance of cooperation, and we just want this very cooperation to be. Therefore, you should not run away.

Fifth, try to give some kind of feedback in advance when something is wrong, and not when it’s too late and “I thought so, but you should have guessed.”

That is, all this as a whole is about explicit speaking out on the merits of the issue with motivation to benefit another person and the whole team.


Try to focus in other people’s messages on the meaning, on the most constructive part, and discard what is non-constructive, what seems to be some kind of subjective, collision, etc. That is, we try to concentrate on what the author had in mind on the merits of the issue what information for the benefit of the project is contained in the words of another person. It is far from always that what may seem somehow negative is really meant by another person. And even if there was, such an approach allows not to escalate the conflict itself, but to move on to the essence of the meaning.

Even if you see a negative in a particular statement, and the author meant it there, then you should not respond in kind.

This is conflict avoidance (in a good way). You are drawn in, but you are not drawn in, but remain in the construct.

You do not take a blow to yourself, but let it pass you by.


If there is an opportunity and desire, then you can purposefully work with those situations that trigger. Work with your reactions to these triggers. Psychotherapy helps a lot with this.

The point is that if you work on some topic in which the same involuntary reaction manifests itself, then this frees you from such “involuntary” and you become able to choose what to do in a similar situation when it arises again. When you act out of such freedom, it can greatly affect both the situation itself and other people in it, but at least you yourself already experience what is happening better, not so painfully.


General wellbeing. If a person does not have enough time and energy, because he did an important urgent task for ten hours and argued with someone a couple of times a day, then he has already spent all his resources, and any new problem will already trigger a negative reaction easier and faster . Because there is less power to cope with it.

Therefore, it is important not to process, to give yourself a rest. Keep yourself in good condition. So that these forces and energy exist in principle.


All kinds of activities that help relieve, overcome stress or make it easier to bear. This point makes sense to do if everything is in order with the fourth one. Physical activity, preferably outdoors, such as walking, cycling, rocking in the park, etc.

As an even more advanced part – a variety of yoga practices, qigong, meditation, breathing practices. With regular use, they are able to quite intensively and deeply help to cope with stress and negative emotions, so that even if all day long bad and emotionally stressful things have fallen on you, after meditation you get up fresh, as if you had just returned from vacation. And so every day before and after the working day. Such emotional-mental hygiene, something like brushing your teeth, taking a shower or washing your hands, only in relation to emotions. But such a powerful effect is achieved with more or less regular practice, it develops as you train. Although even a single lesson is beneficial.


What I wrote here – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – it’s not so scary. It is important to try, train to apply it. To start to work out in more cases than before. It sounds tempting to try to become “the perfect person who masterfully resolves all conflicts so that they never even begin” – it sounds tempting, but the road to this is long and difficult. If all the people in a particular team or company try to apply these approaches, then this will already make a big difference, but, of course, will not solve all possible problems.

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