In any business in which there is a chance for interaction, whether it is between peers or between employees and customers, there exists the potential for conflict. Conflict is a natural occurrence that is bound to happen from time to time and may even be very helpful if handled correctly. Unfortunately, conflict can cause stress for even the most brilliant leaders.

The following tips may be helpful in mastering the art of conflict resolution, or in some cases, the art of defusing conflict before it even begins. These tips may be helpful when delivering constructive criticism to employees, defusing tensions between two employees, or even when dealing with customers that become upset. In fact, these tips may even work when dealing with relationships outside of the walls of the office.

1. Don’t Be Brutally Honest

When asked about her thoughts on “brutal” honesty, the author Elizabeth Gilbert said “Honesty without kindness is not worth the price you pay for it.” When “honesty” is delivered without compassion or empathy for the person receiving it, it often falls on deaf ears. Defensiveness takes over and the person receiving the criticism feels the need to defend themselves, rather than focusing on solving the problem and restoring order.

2. Really Listen to What the Other Party is Saying

The best way to persuade others is to make them feel like you truly understand where they are coming from. Listening with open curiosity to what they are saying, asking questions, and repeating back what they have said in a different way often helps to make others feel heard. When the person on the other side of a conflict feels that you have truly heard them out, they will be much more likely to hear what you have to say.

3. Don’t Pass the Buck

Blaming another person for the way something turned out is a surefire way to begin an argument or keep a conflict going. Instead of placing blame, try to understand the perspective of all parties involved in the conflict (including yours if you are involved in the conflict and not just acting as an outside mediator.) Having a rational and well thought out conversation that is devoid of blame will usually be much more productive than a conversation in which someone is being faulted for their actions.

4. Don’t Put Off the Conversation

Many people will delay having a conversation about an issue because they are worried about the conflict that may ensue. While it is wise to let tensions cool before having a conversation regarding a highly emotional incident, delaying a conversation for too long can increase feelings of dread and make it difficult to have the conversation at all. Instead of dreading the conversation, consider all the possibilities of how the conversation may turn out and enter into it with reasonable expectations.

5. Gather the Facts Beforehand

During heated and critical moments, our brains often go AWOL, leaving us poorly prepared to articulate our points. Gathering facts and writing things down before having an important conversation is a good way to make sure that you will not draw a blank when the time comes. In many cases (especially in business,) it is also a good idea to try to stick to the facts, rather than bringing emotions into the equation.

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