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4 Tips for Conflict-busting Conversations

By: Steven P. Dinkin, Barbara Filner and Lisa Maxwell
Posted: September 29, 2011, from the October 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Workplace conflicts take up 42% of a typical manager’s time. The trick to moving past these conflicts and on to increased productivity for everyone at your skin care facility is knowing how to approach the topics in a way that leads to improved working relationships.

The following tips—excerpted from The Exchange: A Bold and Proven Approach to Resolving Workplace Conflict (CRC Press, 2011)—will teach you how to turn your next meeting with conflicting team members into a productive conversation.

1. Start with an icebreaker. If you go straight to the topic of controversy, most people will quickly get stuck in defending their positions and attacking their opponents. The icebreaker is a way to nonconfrontationally initiate a conversation about difficult issues. An ideal icebreaker asks for a person’s own take on something that’s both work-related and positive. For example, if the conflict involves two estheticians, you might break the ice by asking each of them how they became involved in the skin care profession and what they hoped to achieve.

2. Listen. Often the best resolutions come from listening carefully to what the other person has to say. Being an active listener sends the message that you are genuinely concerned about the employee and the dispute. Ask an open-ended question; it can be as simple as, “So, tell me, what’s going on?” Then listen carefully to that person’s side of the story. You’ll know it’s time to insert yourself into the conversation when the discussion turns negative.

3. Use and encourage positive language. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but any frustrated manager knows how easy it can be to slip into negativity after a conflict has affected team members. Always think before you speak and use positive, easy-to-understand language. Don’t fall into repeating paragraphs from your company’s human resources manual verbatim. When you keep things positive, you can work toward great solutions efficiently and effectively.