How to have a difficult conversation: The Mindful Leaders Guide

Need to deal with conflict? Take these four tips with you to the conversation when you do. They’re full of professionalism and grace.

When it comes to the first sniff of conflict, most of us would rather walk a hundred miles in the opposite direction, than take one small step towards it.

We’ve all been there. We pretend the conflict doesn’t exist and keep on going about our normal business, desperately hoping it will disappear.

Except it doesn’t.

It gets bigger, people get more disengaged and communication becomes more and more strained. We wish we’d done something about it when we first noticed it, but now it’s bigger than Ben Hur.

Conflict is a normal part of business. In fact a healthy part which presents the raw ingredients to create something so much better than one dimensional agreement day in day out.

Research by CPP Inc showed that 25 percent of employees said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work.

So there’s a real impact on employee wellbeing and ultimately the bottom line.

So how do we address the conflict early and in a professional way that leads to the best end result?


Within every conflict lies diversity of opinions which, once understood, can lead to new solutions and great innovation. Rather than a battle to be won or a painful experience to be endured, reframe your thinking into one of searching for a hidden treasure waiting to be unearthed.


Some of our key motivations when dealing with conflict is being worried about being right, winning brownie points or saving face, all of which revolve around protecting or enhancing our ego. Take the birds eye view and remember what you’re aiming for. When you truly want what’s best for the situation, person or company, a fixed ego based mindset never gets you there.


We’ve all been guilty at times of making assumptions about what the other person thinks.  Assumptions are dangerous because they’re not based on fact and can quickly lead us into greater conflict.

Pretend you’re a detective with a healthy dose of curiosity, genuinely interested in listening to the other person and understanding why they think what they think. Ask them open questions with no sense of judgment or emotion once they land. Let them feel safe to share their views, let them put their guards down and their ego aside by leading by example. Listen to their answers and repeat them so you can both get crystal clear on what they mean.


Many of us shut down at the first sign of conflict, the emotions spiraling through us preventing us from letting the other person in. This approach prevents you from being part of the solution and leads to an ever increasing sense of distrust and frustration.

Do yourself and your opinions justice by letting the other person understand the why behind your opinion. Let them emotionally connect with you and your views knowing this allows you to play a role in finding the solution.

Conflict doesn’t need to be ugly. In fact it doesn’t need to be something we avoid. The sooner we can learn to embrace it as a normal and healthy part of life, the sooner we can unearth the hidden treasure it brings with it.

Looking to enhance your mindful leadership practice and make wellness a reality within your workplace? View our Mindful Leadership Programs here.