10 Tips for Solving Business Conflict

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Given every news channel has been talking about the potential for increased conflict with North Korea for the last couple of weeks, I thought now might be a good time to visit how to deal with conflict.

Although the potential for conflict exists in every workplace, every family and in every relationship, today I thought we’d deal specifically with conflict in business. That might be with your customers, your staff members, your suppliers or your family, if you work with your spouse/family members. We’ll leave inner conflict for another day 😉

Ongoing conflict can be extremely stressful. Ultimately that can mean parting ways with your best customer, staffer or walking away from a business that you end up hating to go to each day.

By understanding, and most importantly putting into practice, some basic conflict resolution skills, you’re likely to find a way, not just through, but onward and upward. Upward comes from the increased understanding and respect that comes from the process and the improved self knowledge you’re likely to develop along the way.


But when it’s all going wrong, where to you start?

  • Start quickly – as soon as you notice a problem, sort it quickly before it gets out of hand and emotions start to blow the problem out of realistic proportion. The longer you leave it to sort out, the harder it gets.
  • Start objectively – write yourself a quick description of the problem. List of what’s not working from your perspective. Keep it factual (ie: don’t add emotion or too many descriptive terms as these are just likely to get you riled up). Does the issue exist just for you?
  • Think about what the other person wants from their interactions with you. Write that down. Can you see any way that you can deliver that and get what you need too? Write that idea down (notice I said idea, not solution – because we’re not done yet).
  • Meet face to face – yes, if it’s really important to you and your business, it’s worth a face to face meeting. Ask for their perspective on the issue at hand. You may find what you thought was an issue was a throw away comment you’ve taken to heart on a bad day or you’ve misinterpreted the tone of an email.
  • Seek first to understand. Don’t seek to share your feelings/side until they’re all done telling you about the issue from their perspective; just listen. Take notes if necessary. You’re looking to understand their goals and their feelings.
  • Ask for their suggestions on how to resolve the issue  – again take notes. Unless the solution is immediately obvious and delivers a win-win for both of you, ask for some time to think about how to maximise the solution for both of you.
  • Send a thank you note for their time and outline a timeline moving forward and make sure you stick to it.
  • Brainstorm ways forward. Think how you can deliver what they want and what you want. If necessary, bring in a 3rd party who has no emotional involvement – you’ll be amazed what they might see.
  • Come up with a couple of possible solutions and present those either face to face or over the phone (so you can really gauge their response) to the other party. Agree on a way forward, put it in writing and move on.
  • Check in from time to time – via the phone to check the temperature of the relationship, so if anything’s not as it should you’ll know before it turns to conflict.
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Article by Buck Samrai

April 30, 2013