Conflicts are an inevitable part of any workplace and a constant source of stress for many leaders. Conflict resolution is an important skill for any leader to master.
Like many other challenges, conflicts can actually present opportunities for positive change. Effective conflict resolution can build deeper relationships and foster more effective communication.
One of the issues many leaders face in conflict resolution is simply knowing what to say. Here are some effective phrases that I have coached my clients to use in times of conflict. Try them out the next time you’re faced with a conflict:
I sense that you’re feeling emotional about this topic. Is that right? Sometimes to break tension you need to label the emotion. Never ignore emotions, because they will only escalate. Labeling acknowledges what the person feels without judgment, helping them feel recognized and acknowledged and decreasing their tension.
Let’s take a breather before we think this through. Sometimes the best thing to do is to take a break. The word breather is deliberate—giving pause to the situation and giving everyone involved a chance to take a few deep breaths.
Thank you for your candor—I appreciate your feedback. Most people who tell the truth don’t receive appreciation. The best way to resolve conflict is to remain open to all feedback, because resolution requires that people tell it like it is.
I recognize your efforts and hard work. Most people are appreciated only for results, not for the effort that they put in—especially if that effort was part of something unsuccessful. If you appreciate someone’s effort you are telling them they are valuable even if they haven’t succeeded. Helping people feel appreciated and valued can establish a positive connection and help open up common ground.
Let’s work on this problem and fix it together. This phrase is important because instead of placing people on opposite sides of the conflict, you are signaling partnership. It shows that you care not just about resolving the current conflict but also about building and maintaining a spirit of collaboration.
Tell me more—I want to understand. Most people speak to be heard, but few take the time to understand. This phrase is powerful because everyone wants to be understood. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, just that you are willing to hear them out.
Let’s see what we can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. When you express concern for the work without placing blame, you shift the discussion from a defensive back-and-forth to a prevention-focused exploration.
What can we do to change the situation? The important word in this phrase is we—it’s not about what you can do or what you can tell them to do. Using we signals collaboration instead of hierarchy and problem-solving instead of finger-pointing.
Yes, you’re completely right. If you are miles apart, find something you can agree on together so you can start the conversation with this phrase. When people feel heard and validated, they’re more likely to engage in a constructive dialogue.
I wasn’t aware of this—tell me more. Stating your ignorance is sometimes a good place to begin defusing a situation. Stop talking and really listen; let the other person know that you are interested in what they are saying. Keep asking questions and listening empathetically until you get to the root of the conflict.
I am with you on that. It can be hard to hear yourself being blamed, but your willingness to be held accountable can work wonders. If you let people know you are with them, you can not only resolve the current situation more readily but also avoid future confrontations.
How can I support you? This phrase is one that every leader should use over and over and over again—in conflict, in dialogue, in conversation, in all communication. It eases stress, defuses conflicts and sets a positive tone for relationships.
One of the biggest mistakes leaders can make is trying to avoid conflict. Dealt with the right way conflict can be a force for positive change. It opens the channel to better communication and stronger relationships.
Lead from within: The bottom line is that conflict will always exist, but a satisfactory resolution and positive outcomes are within your power.
#1 N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
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Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.