Shirley's Articles / Communication Skills and Building Relationships

Managing Conflicts Positively

Many schools, starting as early as kindergartens all the way to tertiary institutions, are beginning to place more emphasis on group projects within their curriculum.

Working in a group teaches you more than just the subject at hand – you get to refine your communication skills as you work closely with the others in your group. And as with every group, there is bound to be friction or conflict, and this can of course severely affect the eventual outcome of the project. The key to success is in how you deal with the situation.

This is where Positive Conflict Management is useful.

Especially in a business setting, whether you’re an executive or a manager, it’s really important to learn how to manage challenges amicably, . It’s quite likely that you’ll be working with these people for a while, and your business could take a hit if you don’t learn to collaborate and work well together.

Here are my main three pointers for Positive Conflict Management.

1. Focus on the problem at hand

It’s very easy for things to get out of hand when you encounter a problem or a conflict. People get caught up with the mistakes made, emotions run high and tempers flair, but the most important thing is to keep your cool. Getting angry and raising your voice won’t solve anything.

Instead, shift your focus on the problem at hand and look at the bigger picture. The objective would be to uncover the root cause of the problem, and getting to a solution that best rectifies the situation, without any unnecessary finger pointing.

Once the problem is fixed, the managers in your business can then address the issue with the intention of letting everyone learn from such mistakes.

2. Separate the issue from the person you’re speaking to

One common mistake people tend to make when embroiled in a conflict is to deviate from the situation at hand and start attacking the other members of their team. This does not benefit anyone, and neither does it solve any problems.

To manage a conflict positively, all members must learn to compartmentalise and separate the issue from the people they are speaking to. A member of the team could have caused the problem, but in most cases, it is probably purely the result of a simple mistake that was surely not intentional.

Once we learn to isolate issues rather than pin them on a long list of problems we have with a particular team member, then we can start to move forward and progress positively.

3. Be mindful of your words

Your words can have a very strong impact on the situation and on others listening around you. As a business trainer, I always emphasise the importance of structuring your thoughts and phrasing your sentences properly, so as to bring about a more positive desired outcome.

There may be many hurtful words ready to slip off the tip of your tongue, but it is more important to think about the future. Your words and actions could affect the atmosphere in your office setting, or damage relationships between business partners.

So think carefully before you say anything or offer input to the discussion. Use positive words and intonations instead of negative ones, and soon enough you’ll find that your outlook on the situation will have improved as well.

Learning to manage and deal with conflict positively can greatly improve the company culture and overall performance of your business. Giving in to our emotions doesn’t help, and neither does finger pointing at people with hurtful accusations or negative comments. Instead, learn to take a step back and look at the bigger picture at hand, taking full grasp of the problem before offering a solution. Isolate the problem rather than tag it to a particular partner’s mistakes, and be mindful of your words.

This way, you’ll find that solving problems and conflicts in your company will become a breeze, having nailed conflict management as yet another positive skill under your belt.

If you want to join one of the many leaders learning effective business communication, check out my online virtual training program – I will work with you step-by-step to help you craft clear, concise messages that build great relationships and achieve better results.

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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