Effective conflict resolution invariably comes down to effective communication. Here are my 6 key principles for resolving conflict. These six principles are core to the principle of respecting the individual and communicating your genuine desire to seek a resolution.
- Be clear about what you want to achieve. It is unlikely to be enough just to want to be rid of the angry client (although this can be a natural response). It is usually more satisfactory (and satisfying) to set out to have the other person satisfied that their complaint has been dealt with in the best possible way
- Never ever promise what you can’t deliver. It may make them feel better now, but tomorrow…
- DO take responsibility for what you can. There is nothing more irritating than someone who says: “There is nothing I can do about that… it’s company policy”, or “That’s the way it is… my boss says so”
- Validate the client’s feelings. In their world they have every reason to be angry. It’s OK to tell them that you can understand why they might be angry, as long as you are seen to be seeking a solution. “I know you are angry… I also know that…”
- DO get as much specific information about the client’s perception of the problem as possible. Not only does this communicate interest, but it will help you in resolving the problem in a manner satisfactory to the customer. Asking questions and listening to the answers can turn an argument into a discussion. “Who, precisely…?” “What, precisely…?”
- Stay calm and focused on the desire to resolve the client’s problem. When confronted with anger and aggression the normal response is to prepare for fight or flight by producing adrenalin. If you have to, pause and take a slow breath, relax your shoulders. Do not allow the client’s anger to provoke you.