You are here

Conflict management

Many people feel uncomfortable with conflict but it can help us to develop. Here are eight tips for managing conflict more effectively.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

Knowing how to handle conflict is an important professional skill. Conflict at work can affect the motivation and well-being of staff and create unnecessary distractions and stress. People with conflict management skills resolve disagreements quickly and effectively, enabling effective teamwork and maximum productivity. Successful conflict management also helps to create an atmosphere in which individuals can learn from others, develop their talents and think creatively. Conflict management can be challenging, but people who do it well are highly valued by their colleagues and companies. 

Fight or flight

When conflict arises, we can often see nature's fight-or-flight response – either attacking the enemy or running away. The 'fight' reaction is when people start to prepare themselves for an argument. But by getting aggressive, they might not only damage their relationships but also miss the chance of growing through constructive feedback.

The 'flight' response involves ignoring the issue altogether. People suppress their feelings, hide disagreements and pretend that everything is fine when it is not. However, the conflict remains unresolved and the problem gets worse.

So how can we go beyond our immediate reactions to make conflict a source of trust-building and development? Here are eight tips to help us manage conflict successfully.

1. Consider the best time and place for the conversation.

While it is important to talk about the issue, doing it in the wrong place and in front of the wrong people can result in embarrassment and an inability to truly listen. If possible, make an appointment to sit down and talk through the issue with the people involved. 

2. Assume positive intentions.

If you walk into a conversation assuming that you're not liked or that you're going to be attacked, you'll most likely spend that time defending yourself and feeling angry and hurt. 

Remember that you're going through this process because people want to resolve the issue and get along. So start by assuming that their intentions are positive and that the things they are going to say are for the good of the team. This will allow for an open conversation that aims to improve the situation rather than make it worse.

3. Make sure it's a two-way conversation.

A conversation is not a monologue. It is not a chance for one party to list all the things they are angry and unhappy about without letting the other person react. A real conversation allows all parties to share their perspectives and collaborate to find a satisfactory way forward. If you find yourself in a monologue, stop and ask some questions.

4. Listen and be open to change.

Many of us think we listen but instead are simply waiting for our chance to respond. Put your thoughts aside for the moment and truly listen when the other person is speaking. Growth and development are only possible if you allow their words to change you.

5. Be specific about the issue and the impact.

It's easy to generalise and make broad accusations, for example using statements such as You always ... or You never ... However, this often results in a defensive response. Instead, be specific about what the issue is, give examples and be clear about the impact of the problem. Be as objective as you can and avoid personal attacks.

6. Don't bring up the past.

Some of us feel the need to bring up less relevant past events to gain an advantage over our conversation partner. This can make people feel defensive and distract everyone from the main point of the conversation. Try to focus on the main issue and how to make things better. 

7. Take responsibility for your part in the problem.

We are not perfect and we make mistakes. Consider how you might have contributed to the problem and take responsibility for it. This not only demonstrates your desire to work as a team but also shows that you are not just looking for an opportunity to blame the other party.

8. Focus on the future.

Conversations about conflict are often focused on what shouldn't have been and what could have been done. Instead, focus on the future. What steps can you take to resolve the problem? How can you avoid this happening again?

With careful management, conflicts can help us make the most of our differences and find a way of working together successfully.

Discussion

Download

Language level

Intermediate: B1
Upper intermediate: B2

Comments

that was some great tips and i think i am going to practice in my life and my work
hope to read more effective topics with you agian

Dear Kirk,
I also must say that this site contribute awesome our ability to writing, reading and listening. But of course it would be great to enhance speaking parts.
Returning to the question, very few people has the conflict management. It is not to acquiere it easily. When a conflict arises at work, i believe immediately we have to choose right side. We should have scientific and moral rights and we should stay loyal this rules. But this doesnt mean we must not change or not to be flexible. We should consider what they are saying about us and work. The people who we can take a consider should be well-behaved and well-educatet in specifik area. I mean we shouldnt listen every people who are closing to us. Only certain people. And we shouldnt talk about the topic we dont know. At least we should research the topic and then it is free to speak i think.

Hello senes19,

Thanks for your feedback! Over the summer we released our new Speaking skills videos, but it's true there are a small number of pages in that section compared to the other skills sections. We also offer live online classes that could be useful, and you can also use most any of our listening pages to help you develop your fluency, pronunciation and vocabulary for speaking.

Every time you see a video or listen to an audio on our site, check the transcript and choose four or five phrases or sentences that you think could be useful. Imitate the pronunciation and repeat them again and again until they are easy, or at least easier (!) to pronounce. Then keep a list of all these phrases and return to them from time to time.

Gradually, you will learn lots of useful phrases that you will be able to pronounce well and with little hesitation, which should help you in your speaking.

Hope this helps you.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk,
all the right English I've learnt the last two years is from your site and for this reason I'd like for one more time to deeply thank all of you.So I've been taught to check precisely the exercises and see where the exact answer is based, knowing that the English language is very accurate and that in exams' questionnaires-for example- many times the required answer hides or depends on one more word or one less.With regard to the Task 1, it seems that I interpreted this rather as a ''hidden answer'' test...
Anyway, this gave me the chance to write to you thinking directly in English and try to exteriorise my comprehension of the language at the moment. I'd like to apologise, if sometimes asking or insisting on several matters. Every time I write to all of you I'm feeling having someone to communicate with and learn from...
Ever thankful
Nikoslado

Hello Nikoslado

Thanks so much for your appreciation! We are always happy to hear that people find our site useful.

And no need to apologise – on the contrary, you've helped us improve many exercises and we are grateful for that.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Team,
in Task 1,a,("conflict at work can''...),I think there is a misunderstanding about the correct answer.The article doesn't refer that conflicts in general can help things go better, but, on the contrary, it's referred ''Successful conflict management''and ''With careful management, conflicts can help us...''So the right answer should be the first or the third one.Am I right?
thanks a lot ,
Nikoslado

Hi Nikoslado

I see your point, but I think the answer is still OK since it's true that successful conflict management can help people develop.

Thanks, as always, for pointing out these things to us.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

My tip when a conflict arises is to stay calm as much as possible and to not take it in a personnel way. And lastly the must important thing is to to take a moment to find an answer who can resolve the situation and not make it worse.