How to Calm Nerves in a Conflict-Resolution Meeting

Being in a conflict-resolution meeting can be nerve-wracking for the employee — and for you. Your employee will be worried or stressed because she’s not sure what to expect, which topics will be covered, or what approach you’ll take. And with all the preplanning and prepping you’re doing, you’re likely to feel a little nervous yourself!

Your employee may be a little jumpy, her ability to process information may be slowed, and you can probably expect her to be overly defensive. Her emotions may even take over, which means her ability to reason will be low.

Try the following tips to keep you both cool, calm, and collected:

  • Slow down the conversation. Neither of you needs to get every detail of every event that has taken place between the two of you out in the first five minutes of the meeting. Let her know you have as much time as it takes.

  • Ask her to take a deep breath with you. Taking a moment to breathe and focus at any point in the conflict discussion — as many times as is needed — is a way for you to acknowledge the nerves in the room, and it allows you the chance to calm any anxiousness you may be experiencing yourself.

  • Ask questions to understand her point of view. If she doesn’t seem to be making sense or is putting multiple thoughts together that appear unrelated, ask some open-ended questions so she has an opportunity to clarify her position. Help her focus on one thought at a time without making comments on her scattered approach.

  • Be aware of your own defensiveness. If your employee’s voice is cracking and her hands are shaking, and yet she’s able to blurt out her dissatisfaction with the way you organize the schedule, now’s not the best time to tell her you think she’s dumber than a stump (actually, there’s probably never a good time to tell her that). Instead, go back to the tactic of asking open-ended questions to pinpoint what about the scheduling process doesn’t work for her.

  • Use language to focus on the goal of the meeting. Reduce butterflies for your subordinate by being clear about what you want to accomplish and using we and us language to indicate you’re in this together and she doesn’t have to come up with all the answers. Used correctly, word choices that denote collaboration are far more inviting and allow you to reach the same goal: to improve performance and outcomes. You’ll still discuss what she needs to do to accomplish the goals, but the conversation can now be focused on future requirements that she can control.

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