How to be Constructive During Conflict, Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about how to stay constructive during conflict by using active responses, like reaching out, taking the other person’s perspective, expressing your emotions, and working together to create solutions.

But what to do when you don’t feel comfortable with the active constructive conflict responses? Maybe you’re more the quiet type. Maybe you’re an extrovert, but you tend to withdraw when someone pushes your buttons. Let’s acknowledge it: Some people need more time and space to think through and process conflict than others. If this sounds like you, try the passive constructive approaches. There’s no need to take on every conflict head on!

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Passive constructive responses include reflective thinking, delaying responding, and adapting. Here are some tips for each of these types of responses:

Reflective Thinking

  • Analyze the situation.
  • Notice your own reactions and the reactions of others.
  • Be aware of the impact of the conflict on yourself and all other parties involved.
  • Avoid hasty and unplanned responses.
  • Think about the best response before proceeding.

How does Shawn recommend incorporating reflective thinking into your response?

Ask the other parties for a half-hour break while you think things through.

Break down the conflict into smaller and more manageable pieces.

Delaying Responding

  • Wait things out to let matters settle down.
  • Take a time out when emotions are running high.
  • Cool down to regain emotional balance.
  • Slow down-with your speech and movements-or walk away.
  • Be accountable and committed to come back and engage with the conflict.

How does Shawn recommend incorporating delaying responding into your response?

Say, “I’m feeling triggered and need a few minutes to regain my composure.”

Say, “Let’s slow things down a bit. I’d like to walk through all of those facts again.”


  • Be flexible and try to make the best of the situation.
  • Keep an optimistic mindset.
  • View conflict as an inevitable part of the workplace (and life in general).
  • Be willing to entertain a wide variety of alternatives for resolution.
  • Become aware of changes or opportunities that signal the potential for problem-solving.

How does Shawn recommend incorporating adapting behaviors into your response?

Think thoughts that lead you toward adapting and accepting, like:

“I will be positive and expect things to turn out well.”

“I am willing to compromise.”

As a business leader, whether you prefer an active or passive conflict style, you must respect the diversity of your team. Some people may prefer different strategies for dealing with conflict than you do.

The important thing is for everyone in your practice to take responsibility for dealing with conflict, rather than avoiding it. You want a culture where people are willing to bring conflict out into the open and move forward. Otherwise, conflict destroys trust and relationships.

So, keep holding people accountable for dealing with conflict and teach your team about passive constructive responses as well as the active constructive ones. Encourage people to use the strategies that work best for them.

Remember, conflict competence is a choice, and you DO have the power to change!

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