5 Steps to Defuse Client Conflict

by Lauren Schneidewind on December 3, 2015

No matter how good a business is, or how well liked someone is; there will always be some sort of conflict that rears its ugly head. Trying tirelessly to avoid the inevitable is well, exhausting and who has time for that. A better approach is to tackle it before the issue becomes a three headed monster decked out in crazy pants screaming about conspiracies on their homemade soap box while doing the nae nae. There are a few key differences in how great companies handle conflict compared to well, the companies that don’t.

Our business is B2B, we are consultants that work remotely for our clients. This means, when the ball gets dropped and conflicts arise, 9 times out of 10, we, the off-site consultants are going to get blamed. From my biased perspective 9 times out of 10, we didn’t create the issue. However, as great consultants, we are determined to fix it. After many trials and many more errors, we have honed in on the winning equation to reducing conflict between individuals and businesses.

Check your ego at the door.

This one seems rather obvious; however, I am putting it in the front of the line since this might be the hardest thing to do. One of my daily struggles if finding the right balance of confidence that is driven by success rather than my own ego. There are days where I need to take a step back and refocus because I have run into another trap. I want something to work so badly; my ego starts taking up more space than anything else in the room. When I begin to notice my room getting a bit snug, I typically just need to regroup and focus on the goals and desired outcome. When working with our clients, we don’t always have to be right or make others believe we are in the right (This is easier said than done my friends). At the end of the day, the solution is what is important regardless of who believes they solved it.

Validate the concerns.

This is the time to sit back, resist the tendency to speak your mind, and remain calm and collected with your ears open. This is the time to listen and truly hear what others are saying. This is not the time to tell anyone, “calm down.” Trust me, this never works. Many conflicts arise due to miscommunications somewhere down the road after the end game has been determined. From my experience, we all just want to feel like we are heard, so my friends, this is the time to listen. This is not the time to solve the problems of the world, it is…time to listen…be quite… and truly hear what people are saying.

Focus on the outcome and solution rather than problem.

We have all played the game of “not it” before and it seems to end similarly to a long game of monopoly after someone want to create a merger (What were they thinking and why didn’t I think of that?!?). It might feel good to get vindicated on the issue at hand not being “your” fault, but if we remember to check our ego at the door, does being right hold as much value? Lets for the sake of argument agree it doesn’t. See how we did that, we just moved on. This doesn’t mean, making excuses for the mistake, we are simply redirecting the focus on the outcome rather than the person that was at fault. By working as a team to create the solution, we can all move forward and complete the task at hand. This allows us to get back to what is important and excelling at what we all do best.

Be willing to take one for the team.

This one can suck. In an attempt to be a great CEO and “protect” my team, this seems to be one of the unwritten responsibilities in my job description. However, it is surprising how much easier this can be when our egos are left outside of the room. I am a big fan of admitting I could have done things differently; then, we can agree on the solution which seems to be xyz. This is usually the truth as well, I am not perfect (I stopped trying to be a long time ago, thank God) and with hindsight being 20/20, I can always find things that I could have done better. It seems to be much easier to find a resolution after one person takes one for the team and takes responsibility, or at least reduces the tension by admitting they could have done better. Last time I checked, most of us are humans, and thus not perfect.

Shake it off, walk it off, ride it off , do what ever you need to do and move on.

As Taylor Swift puts it, “Baby, I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake I shake it off, I shake it off.” This one is also easier said then done, but surprising enough as it is, when the ego is not in the picture, it once again becomes much easier. (I feel there is a theme here). Once the conflict has been overcome, it is in everyone’s best interest to move on, and I mean completely move on. This is not the time to be passive aggressive tomorrow, it is time to move on and continue forward. This is the time to get back at what we do best and focus on continuing to crush it!

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, how do you deal with it? I am human and not a perfect one at that, what do you do to extinguish these fires?

I would love to hear from you!


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