10 Tips to Manage Conflicts with Your Clients

Author : Wendy Howard
Published: June 15, 2012

The process of achieving an understanding of conflict management comes from our initial education on the playground and in utilizing these same perfected techniques, I was able to avoid conflict with various managers and clients throughout my consulting career.

Conflict management is as much to do with learning about you, as it is to do with understanding other people. It’s having a number of strategies to fall back on that you can use in any situation. More importantly, it’s being able to match the strategy to the situation.

Here are my Top 10 Tips to help you deal with conflict with your clients:

Tip No 1 - Remain Calm. Your presence will be mirrored by the person you're in conflict with. If you get uptight, it's likely to make them more uptight too.

Tip No 2 - Body Language. Check out your body language and position yourself in a confident stance, but NOT one that is confrontational. By standing (or sitting, depending on the situation) slightly to one side of someone rather than directly facing them, you are putting yourself in a position of authority but not one of confrontation.

Tip No 3 - Gestures. The slightest hand gestures or eye movements will be picked up and read by the person you are dealing with. These form a large part of the 'unspoken' messages being exchanged between conflicting parties.

Tip No 4 - Confidence. Use confidence boosting techniques to support your remaining calm and in a position of authority. There's a lot to be said for 'counting to 10' before stepping into a difficult situation.

Tip No 5 - Personal Image. Very subtle, often overlooked but powerful is how we physically present ourselves. The clothing that you wear, the colours you choose, your physical height, your build, your natural colouring - all give a message to the person you are dealing with.

Tip No 6 - Emotional Intelligence. Develop your 'emotional intelligence' by understanding yourself on a deeper level. You need to recognise the emotions driving the behaviour and how to keep these in check while you deal with the situation. Always reflect back on what has happened and what you can learn from the experience.

Tip No 7 - Voice. The voice changes when we become agitated, annoyed or fearful. Mastering voice control and pacing will help you to come across in a more authoritative manner.

Tip No 8 - Stress Management. The immediate effect of a stressful situation can knock you completely sideways. Understanding stress, learning how to manage it and channel it positively, is extremely effective for both short and long-term health benefits.

Tip No 9 - Negotiation. Using good questioning techniques and taking the person through a step-by-step process to resolution is a key management skill. Practice open questions, probing questions and closed questions throughout the conversation as you work towards a desired resolution.

Tip No 10 - Preparation. Prepare in advance of the meeting and look at a win/win situation for both parties. Make a list of the things you might be prepared to compromise on and those that you won't. Have your ideal solution already worked out prior to the meeting.

To read more of Wendy read her article on the art of persuasion.

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