Tackling Conflict At Work

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Tackling Conflict At Work

How many times have you felt utter frustration with a work colleague over a difference of opinion in which you think that you are entirely correct, and they are in the wrong?

Whether it happens within your team or with someone from another department, when you’re at loggerheads with someone and tensions are running high, it can be challenging to stay calm and work it out!
One of the fascinating principles of NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) is that every behaviour has a positive intention.

While that positive intention may not serve you, it still exists, and in viewing the situation in this way, we have a better chance of understanding where they are coming from and therefore working out a way to resolve things.

For example, you transfer a query to another dept. That person insists it’s not their issue and bat it back to you.

The positive intention on their part could be:

a) they genuinely believe this to be your issue based on their information or experience or

b) they want to create less work for themselves or clear their workload quickly.

While it is tempting to go for option b here, we can never really know their intention unless we talk to them and understand the intent driving their behaviour.

It’s time to employ curiosity and empathy as valuable tools to help us work things out:

Ask them to talk through their thought process: With curiosity and without judgment, ask them about what’s driving their decision. It is essential to stay calm, take deep breaths before and during the conversation so that stress or anger doesn’t derail the situation.

  1. Acknowledge what they say (OK, I see what you are saying), summarise back to demonstrate understanding (So, what you’re saying is), and show you’ve been listening. Check that your understanding is correct.
  2. Assume nothing – ask questions to ensure you are clear on the situation from their perspective.
  3. Ask permission to outline your perspective “May I…”. You ensure you have their attention by receiving their permission because you asked, and they agreed. Using a calm approach and ensuring both of you have a chance to layout your perspectives allows you to both see things more clearly.
  4. If decisions or escalations happen following this conversation, at least you have made a solid attempt to resolve the issue. It also wards against something springing out later down the line, which might cause a problem for you later on.

Perhaps most importantly, you earn respect for approaching issues professionally and empathetically, which is a tremendous asset to both your brand and company.

As a leader, one of the most fundamental skills is to be able to tackle conflict in a way that resolves rather than escalates it. Although simple, the tips I have shared with you here will enable you to bed down this essential leadership skill, ultimately making you a better leader.

Try them out, see how it goes, and get in touch if you want to learn more about how Executive Coaching can help you become a stellar communicator. Book your free consultation now. 

All the best,



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