Using Strategic Communication to Handle Workplace Conflict

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We’ve come to accept conflict is an unavoidable part of our world. It hinders cooperation and teamwork and prevents us from reaching your goals. Getting along with others is no easy task whether it is at work, home or in social settings. You can’t hide from conflict, but you can learn to effectively deal with it. Luckily, we can use strategic communication strategies to handle conflict.


Often when working with leaders, and managers I advise many of my training teams and coaching clients to practice strategic communication.

Here’s a quick and easy four step approach to managing conflict at work (and at home) using strategic communication.
See if any of these would work for you in your next conflict situation.
(Also check out the free Dealing with Criticism Download)

Step one. Decide whether you have a misunderstanding or a true disagreement.

A good question to ask in order to identify the type of problem is “Would the problem disappear if we understood each other better?”

It would be nice if every conflict were just a simple matter of misunderstanding each other, but aDealing with Criticism and conflict in the workplace ll too often it is a true disagreement. You want it one way while the other person wants it another way.  No manner of rephrasing or careful listening skills will help the conflict. There’s a real difference of opinion.


Step two. Create the other person’s next move. Instead of asking “What should I do now?” ask yourself “What do I want him/her to do?”

Many negotiators would suggest that you push your opponent to their lowest bottom line – that you make them give up as much as you can. But it’s much more useful to focus on the person’s immediate limit –the most that the other person is willing and able to do for you right now.

A big mistake is to push for everything all at once. Suppose a customer owes you $200.00 on a bill, but can’t pay it. You want to collect all the money back of course, and all at once would be the best. But if the customer is unable pay it all at once, you need to set up a payment plan. If you ask for too much all at once, the other person may balk and refuse to budge at all.

So think of what the other person might be willing to give and then work from there.


Step three. Use the other person’s perceptions to convince him.

Whenever there’s a gap between someone else’s position and ours, and the other person is hopelessly stubborn, the tendency is to think, “How can I get him to be more open-minded?  Less emotional? More reasonable? More willing to compromise?”Wrong!

These are all ways of saying we want him to leave his position and come over to ours.

We want the other person to change, not us.

Is that realistic?  Is that likely to happen? If the other person has a belief that conflicts with yours, do you really think he will set aside his own belief to accept yours?  Unlikely. However, he will accept his own belief.

People find their own perceptions the most convincing. So whenever you are having trouble with someone, ask yourself, “What are they thinking and how can I build on it?”

Step four. Try to Predict the other person’s response.

When you get into a conflict with someone and they make a remark that makes you angry, don‘t say anything right back. Pause. And in that pause ask yourself, “If I say what I’m planning to say, how will this person respond?” When you do this you will be able to change directions in your communication. If you think your response will just escalate the conflict, choose a softer approach that will create a more peaceful outcome.

Next time you find yourself in a conflict situation take a few steps back and see if you can strategically communicate to a better end. After all we have a goal in mind, and often have to work with another person to achieve that goal.

Try these four steps next time you find yourself in conflict at work. Also Check out the FREE download “Dealing with Criticism“.

How have you learned to handle conflict in the workplace or at home? I’d love to hear your strategies.


Abotrevina broussard head shotut Trevina Broussard

I share valuable Customer Service tips and insights for front line managers and employees on how to deliver customer service to keep your customer coming back. The name of the game is customer loyalty and it’s not just about satisfaction. It’s about a willingness to be a repeat buyer, willingness to recommend you to others, and resistance to switching to a competitor. Fortunately I learned this lesson through my 15-year corporate career. Poor service is an all-too-frequent experience for us all. I provide a framework for implementing ongoing processes that can build customer loyalty.

Let’s Talk today about what we can do to get your team motivated, engaged and delivering superior service every time.