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Master any workplace conflict with confidence and ease, have less drama, better results, and thrive at work

Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict is an essential resource to help you destress your workday, foster collaboration, and calm difficult customers.

Available May 14, 2024

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You can’t avoid conflict.

When there are problems to solve, and people who care (and there are so many things to care about) you’ll face conflict. And if you want to have more success, influence, and joy in your work, you’ve got to navigate it well. But conflict is hard. You weren’t born knowing the perfect words to say when you’re angry, dealing with a jerk, or when someone calls your game-changing idea “stupid.”

You probably didn’t learn practical, productive approaches to conflict in school. And, if you’re like most of us, you grew up watching role models sometimes really screw it up. You’ve had some conflicts not go so well yourself, and you don’t like how that feels. We hate that feeling too.

That’s the reason for Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict: What to Say Next to Destress the Workday, Build Collaboration, and Calm Difficult Customers. To give you practical communication techniques to successfully navigate conflict at work.

You’ll get proven, practical communication approaches for interpersonal challenges like dealing with a credit stealer, passive-aggressive co-worker, workplace gossip, or micro-managing boss, as well as dealing with more systemic workplace conflicts like working in a matrix organization or remote and hybrid team.

You’ll receive:

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Over 300 actual phrases you can use to de-escalate common workplace conflict situations, build trust, and make better decisions.

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Clear examples and explanations of how phrasing will improve interactions.

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Critical communication tools to ensure workplace issues are addressed before they fester and become more difficult to manage.

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Findings, real-world cases, inspiring stories, and practical advice from the World Workplace Conflict and Collaboration Survey (WWCCS) of 5000+ people in more than 45 countries conducted by the authors.

What Abouts: Frequent Concerns, Questions, and Why Old Approaches Don’t Work

Powerful Phrases, really? I’m skeptical. You can’t script this stuff.

There are many guides out there that claim to offer you a script for an entire conversation. Which of course won’t work because: human beings. Every workplace conflict has nuance. You can’t know exactly what you’ll show up to or what the other person will say next.

We also know how many times our clients have asked us to “please just give me the exact words I can use.” And those words, many of them based on the “advice for myself” component of our research, work like magic—repeatedly, across industries, with people at all levels of the organization, all over the world. But these aren’t conversation scripts. They’re Powerful Phrases that open the door for a meaningful conversation.

So, you’re right, in that there are almost no “perfect words” for every situation except maybe “thank you,” “I apologize,” and “do not put that up your nose” (an unusual Powerful Phrase that rarely works but must still be said. Or shouted. Usually after it’s too late). Apart from those, it’s what the words do that matters most—not the words themselves. What the words do is carry meaning, create change, and build relationships by opening the door to a meaningful conversation.

I’m so tired of “I” statements, sandwich methods, and that nonsense. It doesn’t work.

There’s a lot of traditional workplace communication wisdom that gets passed on but makes little sense—or just plain won’t work in different scenarios. Most of these suggestions improved what came before and helped in their time. Unfortunately, time has stolen their power, and these old standbys are often punch lines (for good reason).

“I” statements and sandwich feedback are two examples. And if you’re familiar with these, don’t worry. You won’t find them in Powerful Phrases because they’re too easily misunderstood and misused. Chapter 2 explains why, and the rest of the book gives you new, practical approaches to use instead.

My [boss/coworker / customer] is a psychopath. There’s nothing I can do that’s going to help.

Ouch. We’re sorry to hear the situation is that bad. And you are not alone. We heard so many stories of conflict with managers in the WWCCS. We want to encourage you that there is hope. Many times, we can talk ourselves into helplessness and feel like a victim of circumstances before we try having a conversation and ask for what we want.

It’s easy to create stories about the other person and wonder how they could be so clueless, selfish, or inconsiderate. When really, they’re just doing the best they can. Our conversation creates a chance for change. Nothing changes if you stay silent.

True, you can speak up and the circumstances might not change. But you still come out ahead in three ways. First, you have developed your skills and courage. Both improve with practice. The next time you need to have a conversation like this, you’ll be more ready for it.

The second benefit is that you may learn something you didn’t know. Maybe that person isn’t inconsiderate. Maybe they have a competing set of priorities you didn’t understand (and yes, there’s a Power Phrase for that—see chapter 12). The third change when you learn nothing new, and circumstances don’t change, is that now you have real data about your workplace and that it may not be a good fit for you. Sometimes removing yourself is the best solution (see chapter 7 for more). Now you know.

I can’t change an entire culture by myself—does everyone in my workplace need to read this to make it work?

Yes, everyone needs to read this book. You can get bulk discounts here.

Just kidding. Sort of.

While we would love everyone at work to read and use these Powerful Phrases, you can absolutely use them on your own, whether or not the other person knows them. We will walk you through the process of conflict conversations, give you the words to use, and the reasons to use them. These aren’t hacks or manipulations. They always maintain the dignity and humanity of everyone involved. And yes, when the other person also knows these techniques, you’ll both be able to work through meaningful conflict more quickly.

There are so many Powerful Phrases in this book. How can I possibly remember them all and use them when I need them?

Short answer: You can’t remember them all (unless you’re Italian Andrea Muzii, current World Memory Champion) and you don’t need to. Use the book as a reference and plan your strategy. If you want to memorize a few Powerful Phrases, the Twelve Greatest of All Time (our Workplace Conflict GOATs) will serve you well.

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. They’ve worked with leaders on every continent (except Antarctica) through their leadership development programs, executive strategic planning, and keynote presentations. Other award-winning books include Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers and Customer Advocates.