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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Conflict—Between You and Others

If your neighbour does you some harm, do not pretend you are still friends . Do not hate him, but reprove him for what he did and through this peace can be re-established.

Conflict about ideas is good. It creates new opportunities to explore options that can lead to improvement. But conflict between people is harmful. It creates tension, ill health, and a diversion away from the daily task of customer service. Here are some strategies for dealing with this problem quickly and professionally:


    • Evaluate your ability to resolve the issue. If this is something you have difficulty with, as most people do, seek the advice of someone you trust. Perhaps he will do a role-play with you to hone your skill at handling the situation.

    • Deal quickly with personality conflict so that the problem doesn't mushroom or become a situation you condone.

    • Ask the person with whom you have a "beef" for permission to deal with the issue. Simply approach him and say, "Could the two of us sit down and discuss our differences? I'd really like to do that." An acceptance will set the climate for a collaborative, adult-to-adult problem-solving session.

    • Find a neutral venue where your colleagues cannot observe you.

    • Collect your thoughts so you are well prepared. Make some notes so you don't forget what you intend to say.


    • Thank the other person for working with you to solve your differences.

    • Establish the climate for a good interchange. Be constructive and positive in your words, voice tone, and body language. Point out that the conflict is not good for either of you, and that you are determined to resolve it.

    • Make the point that there are two sides to every story, and that you are probably the source of the problem too.

    • Invite the other person to state the issues first. If he does, do not interrupt. Take notes if necessary. Listen to what she is saying and how she is saying it.

    • Summarize the other person's points to show that you understand. Show empathy. A statement such as "I would feel like that too" will go a long way to reducing the anger, so you can both get on with solving the problem.

    • If the other person declines to state the problem, state your case. Be firm and clear. Maintain eye contact.

    • Be specific about the things that bother you. Don't assume that the other person knows what you are thinking or feeling.

    • Give examples of the things that upset you. Don't exaggerate or stretch the truth. Avoid using the words "never" and "always."

    • Don't use inflammatory language. If you do, the person will respond to your anger rather than to the content of your message.

    • Avoid labels that tend to simplify the issue. Phrases such as "women do that" will increase the emotion and tension, and will prevent a rational discussion of the issues.

    • Be assertive. Use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. Phrases such as "I feel angry" are more likely to encourage the other person to want to offer a solution than "you" statements. Comments such as "You did this or that" will tend to make the other person defensive.

    • Don't go back in history. Stick to current events.

    • Once you both agree on the problem, move on to solutions. Offer ideas about what you will do to address his concerns. Then you can ask what he will do to address your issues. Involving your colleague in problem-solving will increase his commitment to resolving the problem.

    • Agree to disagree where no resolution can be found. Indicate your respect for the other person's position even if you do not agree with it. But don't give up without trying creative ways of solving each other's problems. Keep looking for creative solutions by using "what if?" statements. Call a time-out if necessary. Some issues are difficult to resolve in one session. Consider taking a break and revisiting the issues with new perspectives.

    • Conclude the meeting with a summary of your discussions.


    • Be mindful of issues raised at your meeting. Live up to commitments, and express appreciation if others live up to theirs.

    • If the issue is not resolved, consider inviting a third party to intervene on your behalf.

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