by Paul Casey

LEAD Conflict Toward Resolution

When someone is confronting you about something (in work or your personal life), it is very difficult to not get defensive, which simply escalates the conflict instead of heading it toward peaceful resolution. Try the LEAD formula for cooling down your confronter, bringing a bucket of water to the fire instead of a bucket of gasoline.

L is for Listen. Typically, the other person is angry because his/her goal is blocked, and he/she sees you as blocking it. If an introvert, he/she has been storing up their venom for a while and is ready to unload. If an extrovert, there may be no filter at all, and out it comes! Either way the person needs to vent, without interruption and to their satisfaction. It’s your job to listen actively, even though every bone in your body wants to lash back at this perceived attack. Hear them out without interruption. Use open body language to show you are hanging in there. You are only allowed to clarify or confirm what they are saying with questions, and no statements, if you want to be disarming. What I’ve found is that a third of the person’s emotion diffuses if you listen well and he/she feels that you get where he/she is coming from.

E is for Empathize. When it’s time to speak, the first words out of your mouth need to be from the perspective of the other person, as if you put on his/her glasses and were looking at the issue from that vantage point.  This response (not reaction!) demonstrates to them that you are seeking to understand before being understood (a habit of highly effective people). When you use phrases like, “It must have been difficult for you to hear….” or “I would have been irritated, too, if I thought that…” By trying to feel their pain, it takes another one-third of hostile emotion out of the picture for your confronter.

A is for Apologize. This may not apply if you truly have done nothing wrong, but if you even share 1% of the blame for this person feeling as amped-up as he/she is, say you are truly sorry. And, ask for forgiveness. Yes, that last sentence tends to melt people’s hard hearts, and takes the last third of negative emotion and turns it into fodder for resolution. Many times when I’ve done this, the other person also apologizes, or backs down, realizing he/she has blown this out of proportion. It’s hard to keep arguing with someone who gets vulnerable and selfless.

D is for Discuss. Finally, it’s dialogue time. If you have done this correctly, the stage has been set for effective communication to take place. It’s now a respectful atmosphere to focus forward on solutions–on what you both can do in the future to avert this from happening again. Give and take can occur.  And both parties can leave the table with a win-win outcome, that should be confirmed by each person to assure comprehension.

No, conflict isn’t fun for most of us. But it CAN lead to a stronger relationship on the other side of it, IF you take the high road and stay mature and constructive, and not take it personally. For more tips on conflict resolution, contact me at and I’ll send you other ways to better get to win-win!       


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