Use conversation to solve conflict


Conflict will arise…Time to Speak

The Big Oil Company

Several years ago, I was at a standstill with regards to a contract negotiation with a Fortune 50 company.  After speaking with several people from Human Resources, Compliance and Risk Management departments and making no progress, I finally received a call from a very intelligent Harvard educated Corporate Attorney.

My phone rang unexpectedly that day and the Corporate Attorney on the other end opened the call by introducing herself and asking if I had 30 minutes to work with her to solve a problem. She suggested that she knew I had been mistreated by several people in her company and she wanted to fix that situation. How could I say no to an introduction that was designed to disarm my legitimate frustrations with her colleagues?

Of course I wanted to have this conversation!

Thirty minutes later, we negotiated a 34 page contract down to less than 10 pages.  The Attorney removed every part of her company’s contract that did not apply to the relationship between my company and her company and we found common ground where we could compromise. 

This 30 minute conversation did in fact solve problems because it was a verbal conversation rather than email upon email.  And, this conversation produced success because both parties to the conversation wanted to solve the problem and were willing to compromise when possible.

Conflicts occur because of:

  • Lack of communication
  • Broken communication
  • Lack of understanding
  • Misinterpretation
  • Too much email and not enough talking
  • Selfishness by one or both parties to a conflict
  • Deception
  • Skewed Reality Testing
  • And more…


The next time you find yourself in a conflict, stop sending email.  No matter how small the conflict might be, walk down the hall or pick up the phone and have an old fashioned conversation.  Be prepared to talk but be even more prepared to actively listen.

Conversation gives both parties to a conflict an opportunity to explain their position and to be heard.  Approach this conversation with an open mind and with the objective of solving the problem.  Look for opportunities to compromise when you don’t have to win.

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