Sarah Boyd


The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation

The Secret To Dealing With Conflict In Leadership

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Relational conflict is a normal part of life.

We experience it in our home life and at work; when leading and managing teams, when parenting our children, in friendships and in our marriages.

(Image credit @jshnaaa)

(Image credit @jshnaaa)

Heightened relational conflict is particularly present when we feel like we have communicated something,  and it still doesn’t happen:

We told our team the importance of handing in reports by the end of the week, and the reports are repeatedly not handed in.

We asked our partner to be home at 6pm because of a social engagement and they are home at 6:30pm.

We instructed our children to clean up their toys before they go out to play, and the toys are still all over the floor.

Especially during these type of situations, we are often left feeling frustrated, angry and misunderstood.


One major mistake people make when dealing with conflict is assumption.

We assume that others know what we know and see life from our perspective.

When we vastly overestimate what they know about a situation, psychology terms this the ‘false consensus effect’.

It is based on the false belief that everyone else is just like us.

It is this false assumption that often adds heightened emotions and personal judgements to a conflict situation, which spins the situation out of control.



When we assume our team understands the importance of handing in reports on time, how much our oversight needs them, how tracking results is essential to making critical leadership decisions…

when they still don’t hand in the reports, the only deduction our thinking can make is that they are: lazy, rebellious, undisciplined, unproductive or ineffective workers.


When we assume our partners understand that they have to be home at 6pm because this social engagement is particularly important to you and its not something you can be late for…

when they are still late, the only deduction our thinking can make is that they: don’t care about us, never put our needs first, uncaring, unloving, or just plain mean.


We often never consider that perhaps we’ve made some early assumptions that are actually false.

The truth is no two people are exactly alike. Most of the time, conflict comes because we assume they understand something about our life and perspective, that we actually haven’t communicated clearly or enough times.

The majority of conflict comes down to miscommunication.



1. OVER – COMMUNICATE: clearly communicate your point of view when the other person is listening.

This also involves clearly communicating your perspective on what factors helped you arrived at the conclusion, just how important it is to you and why.


2. SELF AWARENESS: what biases and unique perspectives do you bring to the table?

Are you aware that you may be particularly sensitive to certain situations or behaviours?

Are you feeling particular pressure to perform at work or in a social setting that is contributing to the intensity of the request?

Being aware of your own standing in the situation, will help you more accurately and empathetically communicate.


3. LISTEN: empathetically listen and consider another person’s point of view. Validate where they’re coming from.

When an individual consistently doesn’t feel listened too and actually considered within a relational dynamic, they give up attempting to communicate with you.

It doesn’t matter how much you yell at them or try to convince them of your perspective. They are shut down because you have not considered things from their perspective.


4. RESPECT: understand that even if another person saw everything from your unique perspective, they still may choose a different course of action.



1. Are you assuming everyone is on the same page?

2. On specific issues have you listen, even written down, and validated someone else’s point of view?

3. What is your unique biases that you are bringing to the table?

4. Do you fundamentally respect the people you are interacting with?


When we become aware of our thinking processes during conflict, we can take positive action to avoid assumption. By reducing assumption and increasing communication, we will reduce the intensity of conflict in the relationship.

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The 9 most powerful questions to get perspective in a difficult situation.