The Simple Two-Step Technique to Move Past Workplace Conflict

Have you ever experienced a conversation where you feel like yourself and the other person are on a completely different page?

This is something I come across often in the discussions I have with senior executives, as they’re frustrated by the fact that they’ve got a very strong point they’re trying to make to someone, however it seems to be falling on deaf ears.

The main reason for this is a simple situation we call: two issues.

Whenever there’s a dispute or disagreement, you’ll find that there are two separate issues – the issue that you have, and the issue that the other person has.

On the surface they tend to meld together and blend into each other, so as we’re discussing the situation at hand we feel as if we’re talking about the same thing. However often this isn’t the case, and we’re actually coming from two entirely different agendas.

When working with clients, I use a simple strategy to enable them to disarm and enrich the conversations they have.

Step One: Acknowledge

Before you can move forward with this person you first need to separate the issues that you are both dealing with.

One of the best ways of doing this is to simply listen to the other person and default to acknowledging what they’re saying, using statements like:  “You know what? You’re absolutely right.”

I know this will seem incredibly counterintuitive initially, as you may not agree with everything they are saying. However, chances are you are both aligned in some areas, and by acknowledging what they are saying, as opposed to immediately offering your alternate view point, you are making them feel heard.

You are establishing a sense of connection and trust, that will enable you both to move forward together.  

Step Two: Listen

Listen with the intent to understand, not simply to reply. As you’re acknowledging what they are saying, try and determine the specific issue they are facing and try to mentally separate this from the issue that you are experiencing.

For example, I once worked with a General Manager who was experiencing a disagreement with the CEO.  

The General Manager was frustrated by the fact that the CEO had spoken to his direct reports about a sales performance issue, without addressing the issue with him first as he felt as if he was being undercut. When he confronted the CEO about it, the CEO felt it was justified as it was one of the worst sales performance results the company had ever experienced.

The reality in this situation is that there were actually two issues:

  • Issue 1: The CEO’s issue is that sales were not where they need to be, and felt urgent communication was needed.
  • Issue 2: The General Manager’s was concerned about protocol and reporting.

By using this simple strategy to separate various issues that arise in a confrontation, you are then able to systematically address each issue – so both parties feel as if they are being heard.

In the video below I dive deeper into this case study and reveal how the CEO and GM moved past this conflict.

I encourage you to watch the video, and also reflect on a situation where you felt as if you weren’t being heard. Can you determine the different issues at play in this situation?


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