Sometimes we would rather fake like everything is fine rather than fix the situation. Conflict can be hard and messy but it can also be insidious. A miscommunication at work that isn’t addressed begins to fester, sometimes growing to impact team morale. An unspoken expectation or concern that is not met ends up damaging a friendship. We think sometimes it’s better to fake it while we try to rationalize our way to peace with the situation when all the time, what started as a small hole in the boat turns into the cause of the water that sinks it.

How do you fix it before it breaks beyond repair? First of all, gather up your confidence and leave the blame behind.

Ready to fix things? Here are four phrases you can use (and three to avoid) to help solve a problem.

Try these phrases on for size:

  1. I feel –  “I feel confused because the paint we told you to use is not the color on the wall.” “I feel like I am making most of the effort on this project.” Save the “you make me feel,” for a real knock-down drag-out. I’ve never met anyone who likes to be blamed for making someone else feel anything.
  2. Help me – “Can you help me understand why I heard you accept credit for the work we both did/why you stopped calling/why you didn’t follow my directions?” But beware: “help me understand why you did such a dumb thing” is not in your best interest for a diplomatic conversation. Try to stay away from judgmental statements.
  3. I need – “I need to know that we can work together/trust each other.” This has to be about you, not the other person. You must be able to convey what it is that YOU need out of the situation in order to mend the relationship or fix the situation going forward. After all, telling other people what they need to do implies we have some kind of direct control over their actions. And we don’t. Really. Stop trying.
  4. I want for – “I want for you to feel comfortable working with me/know that you can be honest with me/not to be afraid to bring me bad news”. This is a handy statement that can be used in conjunction with your “I need” statements or all on its own. Watch out, though. You need to be sincere – don’t just say this to placate. Your insincerity will sell you out every time.

While you are practicing folding these helpful phrases into your conversations (you can practice them in ANY situation, conflict or not), be sure to avoid the common pit falls that will fan the flames of resentment and break down relationships instead of strengthening them:

  • You never –“You never share credit/call me for meetings/follow my directions.”
  • You always – “You always take credit for work that we both do/leave me out/do your own thing.”
  • You need – “You need to… cut it out!”

Controlling all aspects of a conversation that may lead to conflict is impossible.

You can’t control the reaction of the other party involved, but you can approach the conflict with grace and diplomacy. Doing so might just lead you to a stronger relationship than you had before, whether that relationship is in the office, in the neighborhood or in the home.

Tara Lynn is a leadership development speaker, Fascinate Certified Advisor, coach, and writer. She brings polished, insightful strategies to companies and individuals, helping them clarify their unique value and rise to higher standards of success. The practical tips and tools she shares get her clients from point A to point C while solving for the mysterious point B. 

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