Conquering Conflict: How to Have Curious Conversations at Work

Does the mere mention of a difficult conversation with a colleague send shivers down your spine? You’re not alone. Fear of conflict is a universal experience, but it can also be a major roadblock to achieving your goals and fostering a positive work environment.

The good news? Conflict doesn’t have to be a destructive volcano erupting in the middle of the office. In fact, with the right approach, it can be an opportunity for growth and collaboration.

In my recent appearance on the podcast “Business Confidential Now,” I, Dr. Debra Dupree, a conflict resolution specialist and mindset coach, shared some actionable strategies to help you navigate conflict with confidence and transform it into a curious learning experience.

Why We Freak Out: The Science of Conflict Aversion

Our primal instincts often kick in when faced with conflict. It’s a fight-or-flight-or-freeze response triggered by our body perceiving disagreement as a threat. This can lead to us shutting down, getting defensive, or even resorting to aggressive tactics.

The Superhero Skill: Mastering Emotional Intelligence

Leaders who can manage their own emotions and understand how others react are better equipped to navigate conflict productively. This “emotional intelligence” allows them to stay calm under pressure, de-escalate situations, and foster open communication

From Meltdown to Mindfulness: De-Escalation Techniques

When a colleague is visibly upset, a simple yet powerful strategy is to suggest they take a moment to write down their key points.  This allows them to cool down, organize their thoughts, and focus on facts rather than emotions.

Focus on the Facts, Not the Feels: The Power of Open-Ended Questions

During the conversation,  shift your focus from dwelling on emotions to understanding the situation at hand. Ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to share their perspective, such as “Can you tell me more about what’s bothering you?” or “What would you like to see happen moving forward?”

Building a Culture of Calm: Beyond Individual Strategies

Creating a lasting positive change requires ongoing support from the organization. This could include training programs to equip employees with conflict resolution skills or even small changes to the physical workspace that promote better communication.

Empowering Yourself and Your Team

By following these tips and developing your emotional intelligence, you can transform conflict from a source of stress into a springboard for growth and collaboration. Remember, you don’t have to become a conflict resolution expert overnight.  Taking the first step to approach disagreements with curiosity and empathy can significantly improve your communication skills and foster a more positive and productive work environment for yourself and your colleagues.

Ready to Dive Deeper?

In the podcast interview, I also discussed the importance of perspective-taking and offered resources to help you build your conflict management skills. You can find the full interview transcript and links to additional resources, including my YouTube video on perspective, on the “Business Confidential Now” website at

Follow  this link to watch the full episode >> 

Remember, conquering conflict is a journey, and with the right tools and mindset, you can navigate it with confidence and create a more collaborative and successful work environment.

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