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[Professional Development]

4 Steps to Overcome Work Conflict Like a Boss

Conflict at work? 4 steps to Conflict Resolution

After any conflict there’s a ripple effect. 

Nobody enjoys clashing with colleagues, we’d all prefer it much more if we got along all the time. The intrinsic issue with that ideal is that it would require us to agree with each other all the time; which we simply can’t do - and thank goodness. 

When we dare to disagree, ideas evolve, we understand each other from truth (though awkward) and an opportunity to grow is presented. 

On top of that though, we also get the unfortunate emotional backlash. Conflict has the power to make us feel all sorts of emotions; anger, anxiety, dejection; the list goes on. Our emotional responses are perfectly natural, of course. They’re sort of like the price of admission to a life with depth and feeling and humanity. 

That said, the types of emotional responses we express after conflict can really linger and be totally counter-productive. This in turn becomes distracting, consuming and unhelpful. 


cartoon showing conflict at work

Earning that pay cheque.

So, how do we get past those feelings and keep moving forward towards success? Whats more, how do we take charge and create resolution for the other party, too?

Here are some tips straight from our founder, Natalie Rae. 

Step 1 - Lead by Example 

This is a very important one. Remember: you ARE a boss. 

You lead the charge. Go back to the other person with harmony and unity. Recognise the part you played in the conflict. Remind them that they deserve the space to express themselves fully and apologise if you didn’t give it to them.

When you do this, you are setting the tone of the interaction and in all likelihood, they will mirror that back at you. This is why conflicts and arguments often go round in circles. People keep throwing conflict back at each other and it is only when one person decides to be calm and open minded that you can shift towards understanding.

You can decide if you’re going to reinforce and feed the energy of conflict, or influence the interaction with your ability to remain composed, open and accountable. 

We see examples of this in our interactions with others all the time.

If someone raises their voice at you, you’ll likely raise yours. 

When you smile at someone, they smile back. 

Ever watched a film with friends and felt yourself laughing whenever someone else laughs?  

Or been in a small crowd watching a performance and when one person cheers others follow suit? 

When you return to someone following a conflict with the intention of resolution, backed up by an energy of accountability, openness and understanding - you’ll receive the same from them. In a way, it's like giving them a gift; you lead them back to a stable space and they’ll respect you for it. 

Step 2 - Be Accountable in Conflict

When you show that you are willing to be accountable, a few things happen. 

First, you are subconsciously communicating to the other person that you are strong enough to take ownership of a situation.  We tend to have this habit of making our anger or stubbornness synonymous with our rightness. We feel like we're conceding to the other person by approaching them first, that we're backing down.

In actuality, this isn’t the case. Approaching the other person after a conflict with the courage to be accountable for yourself shows that you have transcended the emotionally-charged point scoring. It demonstrates self-awareness. 

Life Ladder's Alison Prangnell puts this expertly;

“So often, we place the responsibility for misunderstanding with the other person.”

communication in conflict cartoon

In conflict, responsibility counts.

If you flip that way of thinking on its head, what you get is personal accountability. You accept that it is your responsibility to make sure you express yourself in a way that you'll be understood more than it is the other persons responsibility to understand you.

Being accountable, and taking responsibility for your part in a misunderstanding demonstrates that you are a great communicator, and helps everyone move forward free of any nagging, negative emotions. 

Step 3 - Learn the Lessons from the Conflict

When emerging from a conflict, we all know that feeling. It’s so emotionally powerful it transcends cognition and appears to exist physically. In the gut or throat, maybe through light trembling or clammy hands. The body keeps the score and doesn't hesitate to inform us of left-over emotional energy. 

Luckily, emotional energy is nothing like a four-seater sofa; i.e we can shift it ourselves. 

If you’ve been left feeling annoyed, sad or let down; know that this emotion is there as a teacher. So what’s the lesson? Once you learn it, you will be able to let go of these emotions. 

office conflict resolution cartoon

NB - This is not conflict resolution

If you’re having trouble identifying the lesson, consider your mind like an inner Google. How would you ask Google what the lesson is? Type that into your brain and wait to see what comes back. You have all the knowledge within you to draw the answer from. Maybe you know more about the other person now, or have learned something new about yourself you hadn’t considered? What can you take away that could be helpful in future?

Step 4 - Embrace conflict

Throw your arms around that experience.

Your interactions from this moment on will be stronger because you’ve learned what you do and don’t want from your communications. 

Ask yourself: what do I want instead of what just happened? 

The reason we feel so awful after a conflict is because we get trapped in the ‘I don’t want’ state. (Guess where that comes from? You guessed it: childhood.)

When we get stuck in ‘I don’t want’, it’s kind of the emotional equivalent of a child rolling around on the floor because they don’t want to finish a carrot. Although they know that the carrot-eating will be over quickly and they know that carrots are good for them, and there’ll be ice cream afterwards; it doesn’t matter. We’ve all seen a scene such as this play out before. All the rationale in the world isn’t helpful when a person is stuck in the ‘I don’t want’ loop. Everything comes back round to ‘but I don’t want’ . Truly exhausting. 

That's why this step is so important, it unsticks you. Change your focus to ‘I do want’. 

When you look at what you DO want instead of what you don’t, you free yourself. You put movement in place of stagnation, which in turn helps you feel uplifted. 


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