Building Trust, Resolving Conflict

Building Trust, Resolving Conflict

In summary, effective and empathetic communication is one of the most powerful ways to build trust. It's the primary tool for connecting with an audience, for letting them know that you are accountable as a company, an executive, an employee. The rules are simple: look your audience in the eye and be clear, consistent, and compassionate. Your authenticity will pay dividends—you'll build trust with your customers, helping your bottom line. And within the organization, you'll increase team cohesion and productivity. As we'll see in chapter 8, effective and empathetic communication is vital in confronting and resolving conflict.


  1. Overall, how would you rate your organization's internal communication in terms of clarity, consistency, and compassion? Consider instances in which better communication could have resulted in a better outcome or even averted a crisis. What mechanisms and/or changes in philosophy could be instituted to improve performance in these areas?

  2. Review your external communications with customers and your marketing materials. Evaluate these communications in terms of clarity, consistency, and compassion and devise strategies for improving performance in these areas. Examine previous breakdowns in communication with customers and identify where better choices could have been made.

  3. How would you rate your own communication when it comes to clarity, consistency, and compassion? Can you think of any episodes in which better communication would have helped you avoid conflict? How will you commit to improving your performance in these areas?

Chapter Eight: Conflict—Seeking Resolution Through Preparation and Negotiation

In ten years of marriage and twenty in business, I've learned much about conflict—how I identify it, how I approach dealing with it. I now know that conflict is something to be appreciated. At the risk of oversimplifying my position to "no pain, no gain," it is indeed by managing through dilemmas, uncomfortable conversations, and day-to-day conflict that we become stronger, wiser, and more compassionate. Where there is conflict, there is opportunity.

Why Bother with Conflict?

It goes without saying that people face conflict in the work-place every day. The issue may be between co-workers, a subordinate and a supervisor, a salesperson and a customer, a production line worker and a crew manager, and so on. The conflict could be between people, groups, or some combination thereof. We will always have conflict because each of us has our own view of how the world works and what we want. The question isn't whether there will be conflict; it's what to do with it when it surfaces.

Perhaps you will identify with the following situations. They are common examples of conflict—or at least potential conflict—brewing in the workplace.

  • Your star performer is disruptive in company meetings, making inappropriate jokes that sometimes insult others in the group. Despite continued warnings and coaching from you, his behavior continues. What do you do?

  • An employee has just received a performance review that, from the employee's perspective, is unfair. Should the employee raise the issue with her supervisor, whom she believes to be single-minded and short-tempered?

  • You've just moved to a new office and your colleague in the office next to yours is a chatterbox, constantly interrupting your work. How do you approach the issue, knowing that if you don't, your performance will suffer?

  • Management has just issued a wage freeze in response to poor company performance. Only weeks earlier, you had been told that you will be getting a raise. Should you confront your supervisor and ask if your raise would still be granted?

  • Two of your best employees have begun a romantic relationship outside the office. You are concerned about future implications to your business, no matter how the office romance turns out. How do you approach this problem?

There isn't a silver bullet for dealing with all the complex situations businesses and people face. Conflict resolution falls into that category of desperately needed life skills—such as marriage and parenting—that we don't learn in school. But similar to managing your relationships or raising children, conflict resolution is a discipline to be practiced, refined, and challenged throughout a lifetime. The good news is that there are tools available to use when you find yourself in the middle of a difficult situation—and pitfalls to watch out for before you engage.