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Do you just open your mouth and let the words fly?

By Lynne Curry

When you’re upset with another person, do you open your mouth and let your emotions erupt and words fly? If you want to resolve an interpersonal conflict, you can’t afford to blast the other person. While you may feel vindicated, you risk the other person attacking back, getting defensive or shutting down

If you want things to become better and not worse between you and the other person, learn to tackle yourself first, open the conversational door to the other person, remain results-focused, word your thoughts so they can be heard, and admit your part in the problem.

Tackle yourself before you slam the other person

When you’re upset, adrenaline can hit you like a wave. Don’t let it swamp you and torpedo your chances of attaining a positive outcome. If you’re vibrating with anger or frustration, calm your emotional storm before you speak. By speaking respectfully and diplomatically, you increase the chances that what you say will be heard rather than reacted to.

Open the conversational door

You can’t fully fix a two-person conflict when you’re the only one talking. The other person needs to feel there’s value in discussing the situation with you. Instead of leading off with a focus on your views by saying, “this is what I want” or “I’m upset because,” let the other person know you’re interested in their thoughts. You might say, “I’d like to bring something up, and learn what you think, so we can be on the same page” or “Could we talk about what just happened?”

Better yet, ask the person to speak first by saying, “I’d like to hear your thoughts about….” By letting the other person begin, you establish that how they see things and feel about the situation matters to you.

When the other person talks, listen to and respect what they say. Even when you don’t agree with how they interpret the past or current situation, you need to understand what’s driving them to act as they are doing and what they hope for as an outcome.


If you start a conflict discussion because you want positive results for the situation or your relationship with the other person, keep that goal in mind. It can serve as the lighthouse that guides your conversational ship to shore. This means you need to align your behavior with the results you seek. If you want a positive, honest relationship, keep your words, demeanor, and energy positive and authentic.

Word your thoughts without judgmentalness

When you’re in conflict, the other person views the current situation and past events differently than you do. Because of this, you need to explain your perspective so the other person can understand it even if they have a different view of the past and what needs to happen in the future.

You do this best when you give facts, rather than your conclusions or emotional responses. Here’s an example, “You spoke before I finished speaking” rather than “you’re domineering,” or “you interrupted me.”

If the other person makes a negative statement, you can move the discussion in a positive direction by reframing it. For example, if the other person accuses, “you were incompetent,” you can ask “What would you have wanted me to do differently?” or “What would have met your expectations?”


Are your past behaviors part of the problem? Don’t be afraid to take responsibility for your part in creating the situation or to admit mistakes you’ve made. A genuine apology can open shut doors.

Are you someone who opens your mouth and lets words fly out, detonating important relationships and decimating career opportunities? Do you often regret what you’ve said, but by the time you apologize is it too late? If you want better results, change your ways.

Sign up here for Lynne Curry’s Jan. 19 webinar on Navigating Conflict. It’s free for members of Law Office Manager. Lynne Curry, PhD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP and author of “Navigating Conflict” (Business Experts Press, 2022); “Managing for Accountability (BEP, 2021); “Beating the Workplace Bully,” AMACOM 2016, and “Solutions” is President of Communication Works, Inc. and founder of, which offers more than 400 articles on topics such as leadership, COVID, management, HR, and personal and professional development.  Curry has qualified in Court as an expert witness in Management Best Practices, HR and Workplace issues. You can reach her at or follow her @lynnecurry10 on twitter.









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