conflict resolution

7 Steps on How to Handle Conflict/Difficult Conversations

1.You don’t have to have all the answers.  It’s OK to say, “I don’t know”.  If you can find out the answer, say you will and give the person a time frame to get back to them.  If you know who is “in-the-know” tell them who needs to be contacted for the information.

2. Do not take another person’s reaction or anger personally.  Another person’s mood or response is rarely about you.  Be empathetic.  “Tell me more about your concern” or “I don’t understand your frustration” are perfect responses when someone is upset or angry.

3. Understand that people want to be heard more than they care about whether you agree with them.  It’s OK to disagree.  Show that you’re listening and that you value another person’s opinion by giving someone your complete attention and saying things like:

  • Tell me about your concern.
  • What is it about ____ that concerns you?
  • I’m interested in what you’ve just said.  Can you share a little bit about what lead you to that belief?
  • What would have to happen for you to be more comfortable with _____?

4. Remember that what someone says and what we hear can be amazingly different.  Our personal filters, assumptions, judgment and beliefs can distort what we hear.  Repeat back or summarize to ensure that you understand.  Restate what you think you heard and ask, “Have I understood you correctly?”

5. “Let’s just call a spade a shovel”.  Look for common ground.  Don’t focus on the differences. 

6. Keep your message simple.  

7. Use different mediums.  Some people understand a message when it is read, others understand when it is heard, others understand by doing, and still others understand by presentations.  Know your audience to deliver the communication the most effectively.

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