For many reasons we can get exasperated with people as we try desperately to get them to do what we want.

The workplace can easily seem like a bloody battleground as wills collide over what needs to be done and how it should be achieved. Although some people thrive on conflict and actively seek it out – the majority of us find it stressful and exhausting.

It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.

This wise quote is often attributed to Harry S Truman but actually Bob Woodruff said similar and rumour has it so did Eleanor Roosevelt – so, ironically, let’s leave who gets the credit for this as an open door…

Whatever the case, it seems that the neediness of our fragile egos can trip us up on a regular basis when it comes to influencing and negotiating effectively. The good news in conflict resolution is that much of this hassle is completely unnecessary.

How to minimise conflict


What happens if we dare, for a moment, to put aside our desire to be seen to win, and for public acknowledgement of our rectitude?

The more people care about an issue, the more difficult it seems to be to have a rational discussion about it and get the point across. If this sounds like a familiar situation to you it’s worth taking a step back and thinking about what you want the result of the discussion to be.

If it’s simply a desire to be acknowledged as right and for the other person to go down on bended knee and concede defeat then you may be in for the long haul  argument. If, however,  you want the outcome to be that your ideas are heard, understood, and acted upon then it may be be useful to look for where you can give credit and acknowledge what is right about the opposing view. This may be counter-intuitive but it works for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to focus all our mental energy on thinking of more and more brilliantly articulate ways to point out why someone is wrong and why we are right. This means we can miss things because our focus isn’t on listening but on talking.
  • The law of reciprocity means that if you give something to me (in this case acknowledgement of an idea) I will want to give something back to you (acknowledgement or acceptance of an idea/concede a point).
  • Acknowledgement breaks the pattern and language of conflict. It sets up a different dynamic which promotes a cooperative approach to problem solving.
  • An adversarial approach can infect and spread throughout the wider area of negotiation as new battlegrounds are sought out or created in order to win points. Looking for areas of agreement isolates the specific area of conflict and allows for productive dialogue around it.

 Here’s how it works:


1. Listen

And I mean really listen to what the other person is saying. You are listening for a fact that you absolutely agree with. It’s amazing how many there are when you’re looking for them.

2. Acknowledge

This means that you agree with a specific fact that the other person has stated. It’s important that you’re specific because this isn’t about giving your whole argument away – you are just acknowledging a point.

3. Pause

Allow the acknowledgement to land without mitigation. So give it a moment of silence.

The danger here is to agree with a point and closely follow it with a “but” or “however” or the familiar, “Yes but with all due respect…”  All these little words do is negate the acknowledgement so we might as well never have bothered.

Why are they right?


If we allow ourselves to entertain the idea that two opposing views can both have validity we are in a more resilient and less vulnerable position. We can let go of the need to have the only right answer and open ourselves up to a more sophisticated and emotionally intelligent approach to influencing, negotiation, and delegation.

So when you come across someone who seems utterly wrong try asking yourself “Why are they right?” because they have their reasons.

And when you find the answer try handing out a bit of credit. After all, what goes around comes around…