How to handle conflict and difficult conversations like a pro

A workplace without conflict and difficult conversations is a workplace that doesn’t exist. Conflict and difficult conversation is a necessary evil that our workplaces need to keep going. As you work in a team or even solely design a product for your business, there will be contrary opinions, debates, disagreements, misunderstandings, arguments, and their likes. These are the elements that keep the organisation going. Well, if the people are well equipped to manage conflict and difficult situations when they inevitably arise. 

So, rather than wishing everyone continues to agree and there are never sensitive conversations to navigate, it is more profitable to prepare yourself and your organisation to handle these situations like a pro.

We have put together remarkable tips and advice from experts around the world that will help you stand firm in the face of a conflict or difficult situation.

Certainly, I can provide further elaboration on these points for you. Below are additional explanations and examples for each point:

  1. Recognise and manage your emotional state

When faced with conflict, it’s common to experience intense emotions like anger, fear, or frustration. These emotions can cloud your judgment and lead to regrettable actions or words. It’s crucial to be aware of your emotional state and take steps to calm yourself before engaging in a challenging conversation. Techniques such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or relaxation exercises can be effective. Additionally, try to identify the source of your emotions and assess if they align with the situation at hand.

  • Challenge your assumptions and beliefs

Avoid jumping to conclusions or passing judgment based solely on your perspective. Recognise that the other party may have a different interpretation of facts, distinct expectations, or a unique communication style. Actively seek to understand their viewpoint and empathise with their feelings. Utilise open-ended questions, active listening, and acknowledgement of their concerns to bridge this understanding gap. Consider exploring their underlying needs and interests, which may differ from your own.

  • Plan the exchange

Before engaging in the conversation, carefully consider its purpose, desired outcome, and the agenda you’ll follow. Define what you aim to achieve through the discussion and pinpoint the key issues to be addressed. Strategise how you’ll structure the conversation and present your points effectively. Prepare open-ended questions, gather relevant facts, and provide examples to support your position. Additionally, choose an appropriate time and location for the discussion, ensuring both parties are in a calm and receptive state.

  • Provide an opportunity for preparation

   It’s considerate to inform the other party in advance that you wish to discuss a sensitive matter. By giving them context and time to reflect, you prevent them from feeling caught off guard or defensive. For instance, you could say, “I’d like to discuss something that has been on my mind. Could we meet tomorrow at 10 am in the conference room?” This approach demonstrates respect for their time and emotions and allows them to ready themselves for the conversation.

  • Open the conversation

Initiate the discussion with a positive tone, expressing your intention to address the issue constructively. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings and perspectives, and invite them to share their thoughts. You might begin by saying, “I appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation. I understand this may not be an easy topic, but I believe we can work together to find a mutually beneficial solution. How do you feel about the situation?” This approach emphasises your commitment to the relationship and a positive resolution, demonstrating your willingness to listen and learn from their perspective.

  • Present your side of the story

Use “I” statements to express how the issue impacts you without assigning blame. Be clear, concise, and respectful in your communication. Offer evidence and examples to support your viewpoint. For instance, you might say, “I feel frustrated when tasks are left incomplete, as it increases pressure on the team. Last week, we had to work overtime to meet a project deadline.” This approach enables you to articulate your feelings and needs without resorting to criticism.

  • Listen to their side of the story

Actively engage with what they communicate, paying attention not only to their words but also their tone and non-verbal cues. Utilise active listening techniques like paraphrasing, summarising, and asking clarifying questions. Show genuine interest and curiosity, refraining from passing judgment or criticism. For instance, you might say, “If I understand correctly, personal issues make it challenging for you to stay late at work. Is that accurate?” This approach demonstrates your effort to comprehend their situation and viewpoint.

  • Handle reactions with care

Anticipate potential emotional responses such as anger, denial, or defensiveness. Avoid taking these reactions personally or responding similarly. Maintain a composed and empathetic demeanour, using validation to diffuse tension. You could say, “I recognise that this conversation is difficult for both of us, and I value your honesty. I apologize if my words caused any distress.” This response conveys respect for their emotions and demonstrates your commitment to a constructive dialogue.

  • Seek a win-win solution:

Rather than imposing your solution or rushing to compromise, explore options that can satisfy the needs and interests of both parties. Focus on shared goals and common ground. For example, you might say, “We both aim to contribute to the team’s success. How can we ensure timely task completion while supporting one another?” This approach emphasizes a collaborative and creative problem-solving process.

  1. Close the conversation:

Summarise the key points and agreements reached during the conversation. Express appreciation for their willingness to cooperate. Confirm the next steps and any follow-up actions. End on a positive note, demonstrating your value for the outcome and the relationship. You could say, “Thank you for engaging in this conversation. I’m pleased we could resolve the issue and establish a plan that benefits us both. I’ll send you an email outlining our agreement and check in next week to assess progress.” This conclusion reinforces the importance of the outcome and the partnership.


In conclusion, adeptly handling workplace conflict and tough conversations is essential for organisational success. Emotions, assumptions, and preparation play crucial roles. Initiating discussions positively, presenting perspectives respectfully, and active listening foster understanding. Handling reactions with care and seeking win-win solutions are vital. Conclude with gratitude and a clear follow-up plan. Mastering these steps ensures professional conflict resolution.

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