Effective leaders are not just skilled decision-makers; they are also adept communicators. They make difficult and uncomfortable conversations look easy but the truth lies in the strategies they put in place to excel at diffusing conflicts and resolving arguments within their teams and organizations. We can learn valuable lessons from effective and caring leaders on how to address disputes constructively both at home and in the office.
Employees spend an average of 2.8 hours per week resolving disagreements in the workplace. 85% of employees have some level of conflict at work going on right now. Managers spend around 6 hours per week (roughly 15% of their time) solving work conflicts. Conflict is EXPENSIVE and TIME CONSUMING and STRESSFUL.
5 Quick Strategies to Resolve an Argument
- Everyone wants to feel LOVED, VALIDATED, and HEARD
Transformational leaders, Nelson Mandela and Ursula Burns (look her up!), are known for their exceptional listening skills. When resolving an argument, make a conscious effort to truly hear what the other person is saying. This means giving them your full attention, refraining from interrupting, and asking clarifying questions. Active listening not only helps you understand the other person’s perspective but also shows them that you value their input.
“Believe that there are no limitations, no barriers to your success – you will be empowered and you will achieve.”Ursula Burns, Former CEO of Xerox
- Stay Calm, Cool, and Collected
The Three Minds
Leaders know how to remain calm in the face of adversity. When an argument escalates or someone is defensive or uncomfortable, resist the urge to react emotionally. We have three minds that we operate from: Emotional, Logical, and Wise. When we need to make important decisions or navigate difficult terrain, we need our Wise mind. Take deep breaths and sink into your core strength knowing that you can maintain your composure to be able to speak in a measured tone with clarity and care. Your ability to stay calm and listen in ways that allow you to strategize root cause problem solving can de-escalate the situation and create a more conducive environment for resolution.
3. Seek Common Ground
Make Agreements and Stop Using Expectations
Understanding that the world doesn’t always work in yes or no, black or white, good or evil is an important life lesson leaders take to heart. Great leaders know that finding common ground is a crucial element of negotiations and agreements. Look for areas of agreement, core values, alignments, or shared goals within the argument. By focusing on commonalities, you can shift the conversation away from conflict and towards collaboration.
4. Use “I” Statements
Own Your Own Feelings
Eleanor Roosevelt advocated for clear and assertive communication. Instead of saying, “You always do this,” try using “I” statements like, “I feel hurt when this happens.” “I” statements express your feelings and thoughts without blaming or accusing the other person, making it easier for them to understand your perspective.
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”Eleanor Roosevelt
5. Explore Opportunities for Repair & Forgiveness
Parameters for Success
Leaders like Desmond Tutu promoted forgiveness and reconciliation as powerful tools for conflict resolution. Sometimes, letting go of grudges and seeking reconciliation can lead to lasting resolutions. Be open to the possibility of forgiveness and moving forward positively. It is not just about being “sorry.” Recognizing that damage has been done to the relationship and caring about creating opportunities for repair and rebuilding of trust is crucial in building safe and healthy experiences for yourself and others.
The Bottom Line…
Resolving arguments effectively is a skill that can greatly benefit your personal and professional life. And it is HARD to get good at. By drawing inspiration from the communication strategies of some of the best leaders and engaging in your own continuous learning, you can navigate conflicts with grace, empathy, and success.
In a world where 51% of workers are looking to leave their current jobs (Gallup) and 60% of employees never receive any basic conflict management classes or training (CPP, Inc.), mastering conflict resolution is a priceless skill every leader must learn.
Conflict, when handled constructively, can lead to growth and stronger relationships.
About Christine Fonner
Christine is an executive leadership coach for women and the founder of Roam Your Soul. With 20 years in nonprofit and corporate leadership, Christine is an advocate for helping leaders full develop into their leadership practice.
Christine has a Master’s in transformational leadership/change management and is a strengths-based transformational leadership expert. She is a PhD candidate in Organizational Leadership, specializing in “the human factor” – the responsibility leaders have in creating “radical care” in the workplace.