The Right Language for Resolving Conflict
In English speaking workplaces, it is important to voice complaints and frustrations by using the right language. When you are dealing with problems, the right approach and level of directness can ensure you don’t cause offence. This article looks at essential language along with 4 tips to resolve conflict situations effectively.
Language to Avoid Blame
After an issue has occurred and you explain what your colleague did, it is essential that you avoid making judgements about their actions or what they said because this can escalate issues and intensify the conflict. Besides that, it helps to be specific and descriptive when you are explaining. Below is an example of how you could describe an action without blaming the other person.
Blaming: “We lost an important piece of business because of you”.
Avoids blame: “The customer said she terminated the contract because our support team took too long to respond to her requests”.
Blaming: “You ignored a key client”.
Avoids blame: “You responded to the client a week after their request, while the previous salesperson tended to get back to them within 24 hours”.
Language to Describe Behaviour
When explaining things that have been said or done that cause problems for you, use language the describes the person’s behaviour and do not use sweeping generalisations about their personal character. Besides that, when you describe these behaviours it is important to remain neutral and measured and avoid exaggerations. Below is an example that shows how you could describe an action by focusing on the other person’s behaviour.
Judgemental: “You are incompetent”.
Neutral: “There are some errors in the report you prepared”.
Judgemental: “You are not assertive enough”.
Neutral: “You haven’t been putting forward ideas on this project”.
Language to Explain Your Situation
When others are explaining problems you may have caused, it is important to share your constraints and circumstances. For example, explaining the context in which you made a decision or the information you had at the time will help others to understand and accept your version of events. Below are two examples of how you could explain your situation.
“From your perspective, I was overly involved in this project. However, when I worked with this client previously, he regularly complained about relatively minor issues.”
“I didn’t mean to be abrupt. It was in a rush to meet an important deadline”.
Language to Express Feelings
Sometimes it is necessary to talk about feelings in order to move forward. When you talk about how their behaviour affected you, it is helpful to use “I” statements. By matching “I” statements with your feelings, the language becomes less blaming or accusatory, and enables you to simply describe your feelings. Here are some examples of describing how you felt using “I” statements.
Blaming: “What you said was hurtful.”
Explaining: “I was hurt by what you said.”
Blaming: “You embarrassed me.”
Explaining: “I felt embarrassed when you did that.”
You can approach challenging situations and resolve conflict by using the right language to avoid blame, describe your counterpart’s behaviour, explain your situation and express your feelings. Perhaps most importantly, the use language that doesn’t blame will also help you to foster collaboration, protect the precious relationships you have and drive productivity at work.