As designer Ji Lee illustrates in the graphic below, there are 10 commonly used methods of communication today, which sit somewhere on a spectrum of intimacy: face-to-face conversation being the most personal, while twitter broadcasts to an audience of hundreds, are the least intimate.

There is a simple company wide rule that can help avoid needless employee conflict that is based on the hierarchical order above.

Escalate the mode of communication before you escalate the tone

When an employee feels there is a conflict instruct them to change the mode of communication by moving up Ji Lee's intimacy chart and choosing a mode that is more personal and direct.

For example, if one is texting and feels upset, respond through IM or pick up the phone and call that person. Changing the mode of communication gives individuals natural space to calm down, a chance to reflect and clears up simple miscommunication. It also immediately indicates that one is taking the issue seriously and making a move to solve it.

This rule is based on the fundamental belief that our coworkers are acting with good intentions even in situations that lead to conflict. Creating a rule and culture based on this foundation is a sure way to create a culture that is based on trust, kindness and the human workplace that we all desire.