How many times do we find ourselves in awkward, uncomfortable situations? How many times have you wished you could talk your way out of those little messes or better still, disappear? Ever wonder how confident communicators do it? Want to learn ways to manage conflict and still keep your sanity? This article will give you some communication tips to do just that.

Most high level executives do not know how to handle conflict. Some respond abruptly; others simply ignore it. Either approach leaves you with headaches and/or with more problems. Think of conflict as you might cancer. If you don't directly deal with it, it grows, festers, and soon takes over. If you overreact, you kill the patient. What you want to do is diagnosis the disease, search for the best possible treatment, and then act decisively.

In this article I will introduce a new communication model, the Say It Just Right™ Model to deal with conflict. Once you understand the facets of the model, you can apply it to your own conflict situations.

How to apply The Say It Just Right™ Model consists of two parts:

•The Three C's
•The Decision Points

The Three C's consist of Change is in you, Compassion for the other person, and Curiosity about everything. The Three C's make up the framework for saying it just right.

Whenever you go into a conflict situation, you must remember that you cannot change the other person. No amount of threat or cajole will change that person. They must want to change. Top executives often miss this very important point. They believe they can intimidate or threaten their way out of conflict. Instead, they turn people off and sometimes increase the bad behavior.

Compassion for the other person means imagining what it must be like to be that other person. What issues matter to that person? Compassion does not mean sympathy. Feeling sorry for someone and feeling with someone present two different emotions. When you genuinely feel compassion, you express that through every facet of your communication. Everything you say transmits your concern.

Children exhibit curiosity about everything. We, adults, bask in the beauty of their wonder. Ever wonder what happened to all that wonder? Knowing it all destroys wonder. Adults believe they have all the answers. This false sense of knowledge erases our ability to show curiosity. Let's resurrect the wonder that is within us. Go into the communication with a question mark instead of a period. You may be surprised by what you discover.


Wrong way: Boss to subordinate: "You blew those numbers. Next time get it right or you're fired.

Right way: Boss to subordinate: "I'm disappointed that the numbers did not reflect the actual growth. Tell me what happened? (Curiosity)

Subordinate: "I didn't have time to collect everything. I suppose I should have spent more time on this."

Boss to subordinate: "This looked really bad on our report. I expect we'll have some explaining to do at the next meeting. What will you do to prevent this from happening again?"

Subordinate to boss: "I will start sooner. That was my problem. I waited too long."

Boss: "How sooner?"

Subordinate: "I plan to start a week before the presentation."

Boss: "That sounds like a good plan. If we can show actual growth, it will enable us to ask for more resources. I want you to have all the help you can get. I know you're stretched really thin." (Compassion)

Subordinate: "I'll make sure I give you an accurate picture next time." (Change lies here)

Notice the conversation took longer. The boss has no way to know if the subordinate will actually begin compiling the numbers a week ahead of time. The likelihood, however, is good. Why? The boss suggested a positive consequence, namely, the subordinate will get more resources. To say it just right you must develop consequences that are meaningful to the person, not to you or anyone else.

Decision Points. The second part of the Say It Just Right™ Model is the Decision Points. The Decision Points help us put our decision to confront another person into perspective. For example I had a client who faced firing an employee who had made some foolish choices. Look at what she had to consider before conducting the Say It Just Right Conversation.

What are the costs? If my client decides not to fire individual, given what he had done, what are the costs to the department, to the customer community? Are the costs too high. On the other hand what are the costs for firing the person? Having to recruit and hire someone else poses its own set of problems.

What are my client’s limits? Where does my client draw the line? Did the individual go over that line? If not, how much farther must that person go to cross the line? If my client decides not to terminate the employee, then she must state clear limits.

What are the power sources? How much power does the individual have within the organization? Is this person well-liked and respected? What about my client’s own power base? Is my client secure enough in her own position that firing the person would not injure her reputation or cause repercussions down the line?

The Decision Points help put you back in the seat of power. Often, when we face a difficult decision, we feel powerless, helpless. These feelings can either prevent us from acting or they can propel us into inappropriate action.

Next time you feel powerless when facing a challenging situation, think about the Decision Points.

We are now ready to say it just right.

Find out How Well You Handle Conflict. Take this free assessment.

Author's Bio: 

Author of Strategic Interviewing: Skills and Tactics for Savvy Executives (Greenwood Press, 2000). CEO, Total Communications Coaching: With over eighteen years experience as a speaker and trainer, her participants constantly marvel at her energy and enthusiasm.