How to successfully deflect conflict

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How to successfully deflect conflict 

When coaching a team, it can be really helpful to learn how to successfully challenge the group, without imposing specific ideas or agenda, and without pushing or pulling them in any particular direction.

Being a catalyst for change will bring collective awareness, however somebody within the group may feel threatened or exposed. They may believe they are defending themselves against an attack in which they think they are the victim. They may also target you in a way they could not do to their Manager.


So how will you deflect conflict if you find yourself faced with a verbal attack?

  1. Stay positive – Remember to react positively, especially as this will normally happen in public and can make the situation all the more delicate and complex. Especially as everyone will be watching your reaction and how you are going to cope.
  2. Don’t be sensitive – Deflect the attack by facing up to it, then soften the impact it could have by fully embracing it. Remember, the overall impact of the attack will largely depend on your sensitivity and how quickly you act to minimize the effect it has.
  3. It’s not personal – The person attacking does not normally have any personal hostile intention against you, so it should not be taken personally and any response should not involve reacting with your ego.
  4. Use an inoffensive approach – The most concrete, appropriate and effective solution to deflect conflict, is to immediately verbalize using an inoffensive approach.


Here are some suggested approaches:

  • “I understand that what I have just said may have shocked you and please forgive me for this. In your own words, how would you have said it?”
  • “I am sorry what I am suggesting does not work for you, but by going beyond our normal comfort zone, we will be able to achieve different solutions which allow for different or high-performance results. Let us discuss the idea and see if we could make it work.”
  • “I hear that you are questioning my skills and I understand that they are unknown, different or unusual to you in relation to the people you usually work with. But these skills are the reason why your Manager and your company selected me to be your team coach. Please help me understand what is causing you concern so I can adapt my approach.”
  • “I understand that what we are doing is unusual and is generating some negative energy within you and you are not obliged to fully take part in the exercise or stay if it really is causing you distress or you find it too difficult. Please feel free to stay and observe for now, but can we talk about this during the next break, so I can understand how you are feeling.”

These suggested approaches will help deflect conflict, however the real skill will be to challenge and drive change collectively. By respecting their freedom to learn and grow as a group, you can guide them towards more ambitious results, so they can progress towards greater performance and positive outcomes.



Further reading:

If you would like to learn how to successfully coach a team and challenge them to grow and learn, check out our ebook in the online shop:

Coaching a team – Run successful team coaching sessions and learn how to deflect conflict with this essential guide to coaching a team.

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