3 Tips for having a Conversation and not a Confrontation

The ability to prevent or cope with conflict when it arises is an essential skill that we need when working with others whether they are our boss, our co-workers or our clients.


Tip 1: Move from a mind set of “Certainty” to one of “Curiosity”

  • Instead of asking yourself, “How can George be so irrational?”
  • Ask yourself, “I wonder what information George has that his view makes sense?”

By being curious instead of certain our whole demeanour towards that person changes – from confrontational to conversational: our facial expression, our tone of voice, the vocabulary we use and our gestures.

By adopting a curious mind set we are encouraged to explore the other person’s view – or “story” – instead of barriers which will lock us out of their world.


Tip 2: Replace the word “why” with “what”

Using the word, “what” can help us have a conversation because:

  • We may come across less accusatory. Compare for example:
  • “What do you think the reasons are for …?” and “Why did you …?”
  • We encourage the other person to reflect on their answer in their current situation rather than react with a defensive remark, find an excuse or blame someone or something.
  • It helps us to form a curious mind set (see Tip 1)


Tip 3: Choose the most appropriate conflict handling style

We have preferred conflict styles which are often based on habit or a learned behaviour pattern – we usually rely on this single, dominant style regardless whether it is effective or not.

By being aware of our own preferred conflict handling style and learning about other styles and the skills needed, we can improve our ability to respond in a way that is most appropriate for a particular situation.

The Thomas-Kilman Conflict Model describes how we are likely to behave in a conflict situation depending on how assertive and how cooperative you are.

Combining these two dimensions, there are five styles for dealing with conflict:

  • 1.Competing: You are intent to win whatever the cost (Assertive and uncooperative)
  • 2.Avoiding: You ignore the issues, hoping it will go away rather than dealing with it – the situation does not get dealt with at all (Unassertive and uncooperative )
  • 3.Accommodating: You give in to the other person without any regard to your own needs (Unassertive and cooperative)
  • 4.Collaborating: You are able to find a solution that satisfies the your needs and the other person’s needs (Assertive and cooperative)
  • 5.Compromising: You reach an agreement where you and the other person are partly – not completely, satisfied with the outcome and you can move forward (Partially assertive and partially cooperative)


To find out more about having a conversation rather than a confrontation, you can get in touch with me… Leanne Davies

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