Use these 10 rules to overcome conflict in business.

Three figures having a discussion with various communication words imprinted on the figures

Conflict can be incredibly positive when parties bring multiple perspectives to address a concern and work together to overcome an obstacle with collaboration. When looking at conflict as an opportunity much can be accomplished. Unfortunately, sometimes the obstacle can be terribly negative, overly competitive, personalities can conflict, or a host of other concerns can make the situation tenuous and destructive in nature. The question is what can you do to overcome conflict in busines when this happens? Below are 10 ideas for you consideration to help with de-escalation and promoting collaboration.




From The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts and source information from Peaceful Resolutions and The Servant Manager coupled with contemporary research gives rise to these 10 rules to overcome conflict in business to help you.

1. Do not take it personally

First and foremost, do not take what someone else says or does personally. This can be awfully hard to do. Remember this is about business. Stay focused on the problem. Stay focused on the end result. What is it you are talking about here? Make sure to define the problem properly. Then focus on alternatives considering economic, social, and environmental impacts of an alternatives. Once you have a handle on the impacts, evaluate the impacts. Explore how positive or negative each alternative is economically, socially, and environmentally.  Select the best alternative or a hybrid of alternatives as a potential solution. Consider testing it first. This systematic approach may help you to stay focused on the problem and not take it personally.

2. You decide whether to be angry or not

Your natural tendency to anything that threatens you from your amygdala is to fight, flight or freeze. However, your prefrontal cortex can override the amygdala if you focus on not letting yourself become angry. Instead focus on remaining calm. Take three deep breaths. Even better, try the 5-15-10 rule. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold it for 15 seconds, and let it out for 10 seconds. You can repeat this 2 or 3 times. This will give you a surge of oxygen and help you focus. At the same time this technique stops you from speaking. This prevents you from saying something you may later regret.

3. Use active listening

Active listening requires you to make a conscious effort to listen and reflect what you heard. This allows you to determine if you understood properly. Your natural tendency is to become aggravated and share your own opinion. Instead, you need to really listen by summarizing, paraphrasing, asking open ended questions, and empathizing with the other party. This requires concentration to really listen to the other party. You do not need to share your ideas with the other party when you are listening actively. You need to focus on being curious. Suspend your judgment. Check your assumptions. Really be there to listen to understand.

4. Slow down

Slow down implies exactly what it says. Your natural tendency is to interrupt, share your thoughts and escalate the situation. Instead, you want to de-escalate the situation. This means you need to make a conscious effort to think before you speak. Make a point to slow down. Make very deliberate statements. Take actions and make comments to yourself to calm yourself and the situation. Be very conscious about slowing down.

5. Be empathetic

Being empathetic means to put yourself in the other party’s shoes. Feel their pain. See if you can describe their feelings. Share your understanding. If you have not captured this properly inquire further. Explore their feelings and help them sort out why they feel the way they do. You want to understand why they feel the way they do. Often being empathetic can de-escalate a situation and help strengthen conversation focusing on the problem. Empathy may mean taking actions to demonstrate that you truly feel their pain.

6. Be aware of emotional triggers

This refers to both you and the other party. For example, a change in body language, tone of voice, eye contact, pacing, fidgeting, or a clenched fist may demonstrate rising anger. Be aware of your triggers and take steps to calm these. Be aware of their emotional triggers. Stay away from hot buttons that will only exacerbate the situation. You need to have an attitude to be there to help.

7. Do not pass judgement

Your natural tendency in these types of situations is to pass judgement on the other party. Do not be judgmental. Keep an open mind about the situation. Be curious. Ask more questions. Check your assumptions. By not passing judgment you may be surprised what you may learn.  This can be very hard. While they are talking, you are thinking. Hold those thoughts. Instead continue to not pass judgment and continue to be curious.

8. Always be courteous

Simple niceties such as please and thank you can go a long way. Being respectful, kind, and considerate helps bring calm, and competency to the forefront. When your natural tendency may be to attack, addressing the items above and being courteous can make a real difference.

9. Work with others to say yes

After working to establish a relationship and listening to the other party, it may be possible to begin to educate the other party. Once they have been listened to, the other party may be more receptive to listening to you. As you begin to educate the other party, a very constructive approach is to ask questions that the other party can agree to with you. Every time the other party can honestly respond with yes, certain chemicals and hormones are released in the brain that help to work towards a mutual resolution. Questions like this may help. “

  • Don’t you agree that you would be better off if we could reach an agreement on this issue?
  • Would you like closure on this issue?
  • Might we better off if we each took a break and then listened to each other when we came back?”


10. Give yourself positive self-talk

When you are in this situation talk to yourself and reassure yourself that you will be alright. Statements like “You can make it through this. Keep calm. Stay focused. Listen actively. You can do this.” are all examples of positive self-talk.

Take it a step further. Use your name. This is called self distancing. You have seen athletes use this in interviews after the game when being interviewed. If the athlete had a bad game the athlete may say something like “LeBron James had a bad night. It was one of those things. LeBron simply needs to put this past him and focus on the future.” Neuroscientists do not know why this works the way it does, but for some reason instead of simply stating “I can do this”, compared to when you say “Your Name can do this”, works better. With my name being Mike I might say to myself “Common on Mike you know you can do this. Focus Mike. Stay calm. Listen actively. Do not be judgmental, Mike. Get curious.” All of these self-talk comments may help you through the situation.

Next steps

Go back over the 10 items. Which ones speak to you the loudest? Take one, two, or three of these and write them down. Take them with you. The next time you find yourself with a conflict, pull them up. Start small. Apply that one, two, or three techniques that may work for you. Keep in mind this is a long-term process. LeBron James had to learn how to dribble a basketball before he became an NBA basketball star. Do not expect to suddenly control your anger next time. Instead try one or more elements that make sense to you. This will help you control your anger, be more focused on the task at hand, and be more at peace with your professional relationship in business. Do not blame. Be patient and take it one small step at a time.

About the author

Mike is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]