Building Bridges- Navigating Conflict with Team Members

Jan 28, 2024

As an Accredited Life and Business Coach, I get invited into situations where team members or family members have difficulty resolving interpersonal issues. Often, this involves well-meaning individuals who experience emotional triggers and can't seem to see eye-to-eye. Today we will cover tips and strategies for learning how to have better conversations and how to keep your love on when the stakes are high.


At times, when resolving issues and problems look bleak, you can feel like there are no answers. After attempting to communicate, you don't see progress or a pathway to improve mutual understanding. Yet, I believe most people have what it takes to persevere if they are open to change and to learn new ways to communicate.

If you don't expand your capacity, the same issues will follow you wherever you go. When you have mutual regard for one another and honestly want to do the right thing, it goes a long way in setting a foundation for progress. I realized that most people vested in the relationship or in remaining in the organization can always benefit from learning new ways to communicate.

Communication has two avenues: speaking and listening. We can control only what we are doing at that moment. If we are listening, we can’t control the speaker…but we can control the quality of our listening.


Bad news, people!

According to renowned behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian, only 7% of your message is delivered by your words. The rest of your message, or 38% is delivered by your tone of voice and 55% is through your body language.

That’s right:

If you speak to your boss, your partner, your child, or your friend for 10 minutes, it is likely that they only heard less than 1 minute of what you said if they didn’t see your face or have their full attention. And you wonder why your kid didn’t pick up the ir socks scattered haphazardly across the floor?

As listeners, we too earn a grade of F or F-. Why? It’s possible that we are critical or passive listeners who aren’t engaged in listening intentionally to the speaker.

Here are some indications we aren’t listening actively:

· Getting stuck inside your own head and listening to your inner dialogue

· Daydreaming while the other person is speaking

· Being distracted. Yes, that is a colorful bird flying by outside but don’t get distracted by watching the bird.

· Merely pretending to engage with the speaker while you are really preparing your response

· Interrupting the speaker to offer comments, solutions, or your own story (“I remember a time like the one you described…”)

· Rushing the speaker

· It is possible that the speaker will say something you don’t understand. If you ignore that content, you are a passive listener.

· Not showing engagement with the speaker or respect for the speaker

· Not making eye contact with the speaker

· Focusing on the superficial meaning and not the underlying meaning of the words the speaker uses

· Focusing on the minutia and missing the “big picture.” Worse yet: Asking a tsunami of questions about itty bitty, unimportant details.

· Forgetting any progress made in previous conversations.


Active Listening is the antidote for that low information retention percentage. Listening and processing what the other person is saying is much more important. The way to retain more of the messages being spoken to you is to use Active Listening.


What is Active Listening?

Like many other things in life, active listening has patterns all of us can easily learn and then start applying. The goal is to show that you are actively engaged in a positive way with the person with whom you are conversing.

What does it look like when someone is actively listening? What can you mirror when you actively listen?

· Are you sending positive verbal and nonverbal feedback? This may include:

  • Listen attentively.
  • Lean in toward the speaker.
  • Have open body positions (rather than crossed arms, crossed legs, crossed eyes…).
  • Mirror the speaker’s body language.
  • Smile!
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Ask questions to clarify points. (No, this is not a cross examination, and you are not Perry Mason, famous—but fictional--lawyer.)
  • Be patient. Not every moment of silence needs to be filled.
  • Be neutral. Withhold judgement. Don’t give advice.
  • Paraphrase and reflect back what the other person said to make sure you understand his/her main points.
  • Summarize if needed

When you are actively listening, the speaker feels valued and heard. Active listening is the foundation for every successful conversation.

If you would like to learn more about how active listening could improve your communication framework accelerate your career, and possibly lengthen your marriage, contact me to schedule a meeting with you or your team.


How Can You Improve Communication?

Improving communication includes:

· Understand your frame of reference. (Understand your role within the company and how you think about an issue.)

· How do you listen? (Are you willing to engage? Do you have open body language? Are you curious? Start by asking open-ended questions. Listen more than you speak.)

· How do you speak? (Are you succinct, open, kind, or transparent in your message?)

· Do you have clarity by knowing what you want as a result of your conversation? Do you understand that your body language and tone are more important than your words?)


If you want to discuss how to fix something or many things, follow these steps:

1. Set a time to talk when you both have space and time. (Spontaneous deep discussions don't usually go well—and neither does refusing to schedule a time.)

2. Take one issue.

3. Define success for the conversation.

4. Then discuss only that one issue with an end in mind. (Define success for that one conversation.)

5. Explore options for solving the issue.

6. Determine next steps.

7. Evaluate how successful you were with the process. (Identify what you can learn and apply for the next time.)

Let's apply the concepts:

Take one issue: A gymnastics center was losing its best students to other gyms. Looking at typical constraints* in organizations, we discovered several problems.

Identify and fine-tune one aspect of the issue that will move you forward the most. For example, there was an issue with their contract instructor agreements.

Success for this conversation: We will explore strategies to solve one aspect of this issue and determine clear next steps

Discussion- Keep focused on that one issue. Discuss pros and cons. What do you need to know to implement a plan of action? How can you get more information? Explore every aspect of solving that one issue. This involves being extremely curious and asking good questions. Once you have all the information on the table, determine the following steps: Who does what by when? Schedule the ensuing conversation. Create a timeline for when the changes will occur.

When you see your co-worker shutting down or if the co-worker appears triggered, with kindness say it seems that something has changed. The follow-up is based on with your observation and should be stated as a question (not an accusation). For example, it seems like you are shutting down because you're crying. Tell me, what are you thinking? What do you need for us to continue talking? Or another example: It seems like you are irritated because I see you doing or saying blank (name the behavior). Then ask, help me understand what it is that is irritating to you?

If you can help with that, do it. If not, don't. If you are wrong and should apologize, do it. At least recognizing triggers and knowing what you are responsible for and what you aren't will help you redirect or stop the conversation.

While the process is simple, it's not always easy. Even though you might fail at times, it will get easier with practice, perseverance, and a goal to stay at the table. I promise.

*Typical Top Organizational Constraints Transformational Leadership- Leadership, culture, communication, role clarity, conflict and discipline avoidance, vision clarity, cash flow, policies, process.

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