Conflicts are an inevitable part of running a small business. In fact, effectively resolving conflicts within your company can actually build a strong and diverse team that will keep fresh ideas and creativity flowing. If everyone agrees with the boss's point of view, your company's direction and efforts will get stale fast. That being said, too much conflict isn't desirable either. To achieve the delicate balance, you need to have the skills to intervene when a healthy debate goes awry.
Here are 10 phrases that can be used to solve any problem you're having in your office:
1. “I didn't realize this was going on, so tell me more.” Many times, pleading ignorance is a good place to start to diffuse any situation. Begin to listen and stop talking! This will project an empathy that every angry person wants to hear. Remember, this empathy should never be confused with agreement.
2. “I want to listen to your point of view, but I can't do it when you are yelling at me.” This sets the ground rules and prevents the situation from getting out of control. No one who wants respect will sit there and be screamed at by an employee.
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3. “I understand your point of view, but I see it differently.” After listening to their viewpoint, it is acceptable now to firmly disagree and outline reasons for your opinion as the leader. Don't be bullied into agreeing in that moment and changing a decision.
4. “I will incorporate your thoughts going forward.” This leaves open the possibility that their point of view will be incorporated in any action you take going forward. At the same time, it doesn't commit you to actually take any particular action.
5. “Both of us need to put more effort into this if it's going to work out.” By including yourself, you take responsibility for resolving the conflict with the other person. It becomes something you can work on together and can start to foster teamwork.
6. “Why don't you agree with me?” This directly confronts the employee to find out what the core issue is. Sometimes exposing his or her real reason can assist in resolving the conflict more quickly.
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7. “Since we can't seem to agree, can we continue talking about it another day so we can think of more solutions?” This unlocks the stalemate and encourages a new perspective. Many times a conflict can't be resolved in the initial discussion. Pushing to resolve a conflict in one meeting can be counterproductive.
8. “Let's see what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen again.” You accept that the initial outcome was not satisfactory and shift the discussion to explore how this won’t happen again.
9. "What can I do to improve communications so this does not happen again?" This focuses the conflict on the process and not the people, which is critical for resolution. When a conflict gets personal, it's much more difficult to solve.
10. “What can I do next time to make this less difficult for you?” This is a very smart tactic, where you as a leader do not change your point of view or outcome, but ask the employee what can be done to make it less painful for them. This makes "the medicine easier to swallow."
Have you been able to successfully dissolve a conflict and solve a work problem? How did you do it?
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