One thing I know for sure is that there will always be drama in the workplace, it’s inevitable. If human beings and communication are involved, words and attitudes will be misinterpreted, egos will clash, buttons will be pushed, and people will arrive at different conclusions, often the wrong conclusions.

If your work demands close contact with people you’d like to avoid, knowing how to respond to them in case of conflict will save you a lot of headaches.

I’ve witnessed drama especially with teams under pressure to meet tight deadlines, or when high-level managers or executives with strong personalities pull in different and opposing directions to further their own agendas.

Whatever the case, laying low and avoiding the line of fire is an option. But if your work demands being in close contact with people – the people you’d like to avoid – having the mindset to know how to respond to them will save you a lot of headaches.

In practicing a healthy level of emotional intelligence, the path to managing conflict is choosing to respond, rather than react.

By responding, things don’t escalate so easily; it allows us to create the space to consider the situation and decide the best approach to handle things. Sometimes that means exercising patience, a lot of patience.

Here are seven ways you can exercise emotional intelligence to effectively handle those difficult people under tough circumstances:

1. Get Some Perspective

Emotionally intelligent people use self-awareness to their advantage to assess a situation, get perspective, listen without judgment, process, and hold back from reacting head on.

At times, it means the decision to sit on your decision. By thinking over your situation rationally, without drama, you’ll eventually arrive at other, more sane conclusions.

2. Take a Six-Second Pause

To tap into that kind of perspective mentioned above, you’ll require a pause – a six second pause – to gather your thoughts before you speak.

Why six seconds? The chemicals of emotion inside our brains and bodies usually last about six seconds. During a heated exchange, if we can pause for a short moment, the flood of chemicals being produced slows down.

When you are frustrated or upset, before you say something harsh, this precious pause helps you to quickly assess the costs and benefits of that, and other, action. Applying this consequential thinking in the moment helps you to make more careful choices.

3. Stay Humble

First of all, avoid being triggered and reacting with sarcasm or a negative comeback, which is the sure path to conflict and escalating drama. Yeah, your ego may be bruised, so acknowledge it, rather than stomping on the warpath to revenge.

The higher road to take here comes from humility – drawing from your inner strength, seeing the other person as a flawed human being (just like you), extending compassion, and trusting in the moment to a different, better, outcome.

4. Try Empathy

A person exhibiting emotional intelligence will look at the whole picture and both sides of an issue. It’s having the ability to tap into someone else’s feelings (as well as your own) to consider a different outcome. That takes empathy.

Emotional intelligence guru, Daniel Goleman said, “If you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”

5. Ask The Most Conflict-Diffusing Question: Are you OK?

The next time someone flies off the handle on you, here’s a way to positively blow that person away with your response. Try asking, “Are you OK? What’s going on?” Then, simply listen.

What comes next may surprise you. You will most likely open up the door for the other person to explain the issue behind the issue – why they really feel the way they do.

Now you have arrived at an opportunity for further dialogue to problem solve and come to terms with an agreeable solution.

6. Speak From Your Authentic Self

Emotionally-intelligent people are radically intentional about staying connected with their true selves every day, and especially in relationship to others. They speak from the heart – clearly, honestly, and intentionally – and don’t hide behind masks.

In an emotionally-charged situation, they’ll be the first to take the blame if they’ve made a mistake. They model integrity and authenticity for others, making it safe for peers and co-workers who’ve also made mistakes to risk being open enough to say, “I messed up.”

7. Be the First to Reach Out After Conflict

So, conflict happened and it’s now in the past. However, the tendency for so many of us is to let resentment fester after an argument or misunderstanding, and then cut off the person from our lives until he or she reaches out to us with an apology.

It’s convenient. But it’s also just plain dumb. A person with high EQ doesn’t let her ego have its way at the expense of losing a friendship, a family relationship, or great work connection.

Since social skills is one of the four “best features” of emotional intelligence, a person running on all EQ cylinders will be the first to reach out to make amends, even if it means apologising first. That humble and courageous act will do wonders; the other person will soften, apologize too, and allow you back into his or her life.