How Do You Deal With Conflict?

There are many ways to deal with conflict and some are obviously better than others.  Below are some strategies that you might want to explore when you are facing conflict, especially if the outcomes of past exchanges have not usually been what you wanted.  It is never easy to do this, however, the only way that the conflict can be resolved successfully is if you do face it and deal with it.

1. Choose the best time for the exchange

  • When is the best time or place to tackle the issue?
  • Check your emotions so that you can remain calm and in control.
  • Better to get face-to-face rather than do this on the telephone.

2. Introduce the situation

  • Explain the situation in a non-emotive way.
  • Get across the effect of what has happened.
  • Be positive in the introduction. For example:

“I do want a productive outcome for both of us”

“I really want to clear the air because it’s not good for either of us”

3. 3 Steps to an Assertive Approach

a) Challenging versus Confronting

Use step 1 sincerely to balance your thoughts and feelings.

  • For example:

“I know we all get stressed….”

“I know you’ve been under pressure recently……”

“I understand you needed a solution to that issue……”

“You probably don’t mean to come across in this way…..”

  • Avoid “You said”. Try “My understanding of our conversation was…..”
  • Don’t say: “You’re wrong”. Try “You may have thought that…….”
  • Avoid “Yeah, but…..” in response to the other party – it can say you’re not listening and you just discounted what the other person said.
  • Beware of body language and avoid pointing or clenched hands

b) I statements

For example, when someone interrupts us, we could say: “I’m sick of you interrupting me” or “Whenever I start talking, you interrupt me and never let me finish”.

  • Try the WHEN – I FEEL – WHAT I’D LIKE…….
  • WHEN I’m not able to finish what I’m saying, I FEEL frustrated and WHAT I’D LIKE to be able to do is complete what I want to say”
  • When plans are changed at short notice:
  • “I do appreciate we need to react to changes beyond our control, it’s just that WHEN the deadlines are changed at short notice, I FEEL annoyed at having to change my plans at home, and WHAT I’D LIKE is a bit more notice if at all possible”

c) The Broken Record Technique

• Useful when the person is aggressive in nature i.e. isn’t listening.

• The Broken Record technique means that one is simply repeating the same message, but using different words, during the conversation.

4. Reacting versus Responding

  • Is it choice or habit – break the habit.
  • Count to three to handle instant reactions – act not react.
  • Delay the approach until you’re ready.
  • Consider their motivations – put yourself in their shoes.

5. Self Disclosure

  • ‘Self Disclosure’ is expressing how you (or they) are feeling.
  • When we continually suppress our feelings, and then they finally emerge, very often we lose control.  By actually saying what we feel, we can release the anxiety that interferes with clear thinking and communication.
  • Recognizing the other party’s feelings can also be impactful.

6. Let go of the Past History

  • Suspending how you feel about their past behaviour, or what was said ‘in the heat of the moment’ last time.
  • Recognize that their poor behaviour last time was being driven by how emotional they were, and should be discounted.

7. Dealing with the other person’s anger

  • Stay silent and let them ‘get it off their chest’.
  • Use empathetic noises.
  • Apologize for the situation or that they feel that way.
  • Anti-mirror them e.g. medium volume voice or a reasonable pace of speech.

8. Avoiding absolutes

  • Words like ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘constantly’ are absolutes and should be avoided as they become confrontational.

9. Use of silence

  • Keeping quiet for a few seconds after the other parties’ last response.
  • Count to 3 slowly in your mind before countering with your response as it just may give an impetus to the discussion for the other party to give in to your request. You may think the silence is a little embarrassing, however skilled negotiators understand its value.

 10. Staying Calm in any situation

  • This involves training yourself to stay calm in the face of criticism and agreeing with whatever may be fair and useful in it. By refusing to be provoked and upset by criticism, you remove its destructive power.
  • For example, if someone calls you stupid, you can agree that sometimes you are. After all, everyone does foolish things sometimes. If someone criticizes your work, you can probably agree that it could be better. Even if it’s already pretty good, there’s likely to be some room for improvement.

11. Look for a win-win approach and outcome

  • Actively listen to the other party’s view.
  • Remain open-minded as you listen and avoid judgments.
  • Put yourself in their shoes.
  • Consider what you both need from this situation.
  • Voice positiveness e.g. “There must be a way to solve this”.
  • Take time out to reflect on what they have said.

In conclusion, the next time you have to deal with a conflict you now have a number of different ideas that you can try that will likely give you a more positive outcome leaving both of you happier with the outcome.  Remember, conflict does not resolve itself, it does need to be dealt with, so take the bull by the horns and face the situation, have the difficult conversation and you will truly feel better for it.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. Great article Sandy about conflict. I am preparing to go into the ministry and unfortunately I will be dealing with conflict at times. I would be interested in knowing what are your suggestions for dealing with a person that you have had conflict with but has chosen to stay in conflict with you even after talking to them.

  2. Thank You for sharing this very practical piece of advice. Even if the literature is full of suggestions on this matter there is nothing certain, final, to be negligible and, above all, the experiences are always opportunities for consideration and reflection.
    Let me add a few general consideration.
    Whatever happens in our lives, the first instinct is to “react” to express an opinion, positive or negative, on the situation. This happens in an unconscious and instinctive way, if we do not maintain a high level of awareness. When “we label” an event we introduce an element of duality: right-wrong, good-bad, ugly-beautiful. This duality creates separation and resistance to what happens to us. React and judge always implies a subjective view, and then we tend to identify with the situation, to take things personally. If someone else is involved, inevitably, our reaction will create a situation of tension and conflict. “Respond” to the events, instead, it implies first of all to accept them for what they are. Free from subjective opinions. It means to observe the situation. Stop for a moment, breathe and create a space. Both physical and mental. But above all emotional. And it is in this space that we acquire the ability to understand what is happening and the clarity to know how to act.

  3. Thanks Sandy on this great layout to avoid the conflicts we all face daily. As a retired police officer who entered into conflict on a daily basis of the people we strived to protect and serve, the domestic disputes, business misunderstanding, neighbors who could not get along, we were in archaic times to avoid conflict, and we did our best, but I would have liked to have read this article way back when.