Navigating Conflict in Business: Strategies for Success

Waves representing navigating conflict in business

When challenges arise, and tensions flare, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. But what if I told you that as an entrepreneur, conflict really doesn’t have to be a barrier? What if it could be an opportunity for growth and understanding?

As a life coach, I’ve seen firsthand how conflicts can arise unexpectedly, really testing our patience and resilience. But here’s the thing: we hold the power to navigate through these challenges with grace and efficiency. How? 

It all depends on how we react and how we learn from it. Let’s explore this in a little more detail. What I’d really love is for you, by the end of this article, to have transformed your view on conflict and to feel prepared to handle any difficult conversation that comes your way.

Waves representing navigating conflict in business

Reflecting on Your Response to Conflict

Think back to moments of conflict in your life. Perhaps it was a disagreement with a colleague, a misunderstanding with a loved one, or even a clash with a stranger. In hindsight, we quite often gain clarity and perspective, seeing where we could have handled things differently. You might spend hours afterwards running through imagined conversations of what you should have said or what you could have done differently.

We’ve all been there, and so often we could kick ourselves over what we should or shouldn’t have said at that moment. What I want you to know is that this reflection is the first step towards growth and self-improvement.

One of our most common instincts when faced with conflict is to withdraw and to isolate ourselves from the situation. It’s a natural response, driven by our emotions and wanting to keep ourselves safe and hidden from threat. If tensions flare in a meeting, you might be tempted to avoid that person for the rest of the day. If it’s a heated phone call, you might hang up and mute that person for a while.

However, withdrawing without clear communication can make conflict so much worse. The truth is, we all want to be heard and understood. Even if someone doesn’t agree with our viewpoint, we want to at least know that they’ve listened and thought about our side of the argument. 

So the next time you’re tempted to withdraw without notice, I want you to instead try expressing your need for space respectfully. By communicating openly, you’re effectively laying the foundations for a far more productive (and often less emotionally-charged) dialogue later on. Even in conflict, we can show respect and come back to talk through things when it feels less heated. All I want you to try next time is just to let the other person know that you’ve heard what they’ve said, you’d like to think about it and that you’re taking a little bit of time away from the situation for now. See what a difference that makes.

Feeling ignored can invalidate the other person, whereas letting them know you’re having a little space helps them understand that you’ll come back to them when ready and that you really do care about what’s been discussed.

Because the truth is, you do care. And when we care about something passionately, we stand by it – which is why conflict can often come with so many emotions.

Business owners and life coach collaborating

Avoid Involving Third Parties in Your Conflicts

It’s so tempting, when you’re feeling pretty riled up, to vent to anyone around you who’ll listen about how you’ve been wronged. You might angrily text a friend about how someone has really tipped you over the edge. Or you might tell a mutual connection about how badly you’ve been hurt by a certain person.

But while seeking support is natural and can provide some temporary comfort when tensions are high, it can also really complicate matters. People will want to try and do the right thing by agreeing with you, but in truth it’ll actually validate your anger and make it much more difficult to see things objectively. Perspectives will get muddied and you’ll become more resistant to seeing things from the other person’s view until it feels downright impossible.

The next time you’re tempted to vent to someone following a conflict, I want you to instead pause, take a breath and focus on introspection. Look in the mirror and start examining your own reactions and behaviours. What made you react the way you did? What was it about the other person’s words that had that effect on you? Is this in keeping with how you normally react during conflict? Take time to consider the other person’s viewpoint too, as difficult as that may seem. Rather than seeking to be understood, strive to understand the other person’s perspective. By empathising with their concerns and taking responsibility for your own reactions in conflict, you create an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration. 

After all, self-reflection and open-mindedness is where true growth begins. The more you can reflect on your own reactions, the more you’ll notice them happening in times of conflict – and be in more control of those reactions when they happen next time.

Every conflict carries valuable lessons. By taking responsibility and seeking to understand, we can extract wisdom from even the most challenging situations. Embrace self-reflection as a tool for personal growth and development.

I highly recommend journaling and meditation for becoming more aware of how you react and where your emotions are coming from. It only needs to take 10-15 minutes a day, but over time, you’ll really notice how much more aware of your own reactions you feel (and be better prepared to manage them).

woman punching air feeling inspired after life coaching session

Conflict as an Opportunity for Business Success

Okay, now for a totally different perspective on conflict: can it in fact be a really positive thing in business?

Take a moment to imagine this scenario for a second: you’re knee-deep in a disagreement with your co-founder. Or perhaps you’re navigating a pretty tough negotiation with a client.

It happens, and in business, it’s often unavoidable.

However, I want you to know that just because you’re facing conflict doesn’t mean everything is about to come crashing down (no matter how much the other person is protesting against you). Sometimes conflict is actually the catalyst for some of the most significant breakthroughs in entrepreneurship.

The truth is, conflict isn’t just about butting heads and locking horns. It’s also about challenging the status quo, pushing boundaries and, ultimately, driving positive change. 

Let’s take a real-life example. The renowned automotive designer, Jerry Hirshberg believed that it was discordance rather than concordance that led to the best ideas in business. When working at the Nissan Design Institute, he saw opposing perspectives as an opportunity to explore and see things in a new way, rather than seeing it as a blocker. 

And thanks to Hirshberg’s curious and open-minded approach to conflict, his team not only attracted sales and attention for its designs – they also won prestigious awards and transformed approaches within the industry.

This didn’t come from a place of emotionally-charged conflict. This was simply exploring different viewpoints and going against the grain in a way that brought real innovation. What could you achieve by calmly pushing boundaries?

entrepreneur female prioritising her workload on laptop

The Benefits of Coaching in Handling Conflict

Earlier I mentioned that we need to try and avoid bringing third parties into our conflicts. And while this was true, there’s an exception to the rule when it comes to coaches, therapists and mentors.

Having a coach or other skilled individual to talk to can be so invaluable as they’ll help you see your own responsibility rather than charging up your emotions even more. A coach will help you stand back and observe the situation objectively without too many emotions getting in the way.

There’s a great premise in coaching that we should look to understand rather than be understood. In times of conflict we really want to be understood, but the fact of the matter is that there’s a misunderstanding somewhere. We’re all just trying to do our best from both sides, so rather than arguing about the other person not seeing your view it can really help to just zoom out a little and look at the bigger picture.

If you can understand where they’re coming from and acknowledge it, even if you don’t agree, then that feeling of being understood can work wonders in helping to resolve the issue amicably. Everybody just wants to be heard and respected.

By having a coach who can help show you a more impartial way of looking at things and help you see the bigger picture, you’ll find your emotions just aren’t getting in the way as much. Instead, you’ll be more calm, rational and open-minded, which will help you reach your resolution so much more quickly.

In Conclusion…

Slow down and give yourself time to really connect with yourself. The more you can observe your own reactions and approach to conflict, the more you can learn from it each time.

Journaling and meditation can be so invaluable here as they really help you get to the heart of what you’re feeling and why, so you can deal with it before taking it into your conflicts with you.

Navigating conflict in business requires patience, empathy, and self-awareness. By embracing these principles, we can transform conflicts into opportunities for growth and understanding. Remember, you have the power to overcome any challenge that comes your way.

If you’re currently facing conflict, I’d really encourage you to lean into the discomfort, to seek understanding, and to believe in the possibility of positive resolution. Perhaps you can even discover innovation in it, just like the Nissan Design example I provided earlier. 

And if conflict is holding you back right now and you’d like some help navigating it, I’d be all too happy to help. Get in touch and together, we can navigate through these challenges and emerge stronger.

If you’d like to connect further, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram. I’d love to hear about what’s working for you.