Handling Conflict

This section describes an approach to handling disagreement, difficult conversations and conflict. The approach can be used where a situation involves another person or a number of people.

The approach helps you prevent a situation getting out of hand, maintain relations and rebuild trust. The approach has four stages that may apply in any difficult situation. Not all the stages will apply in every situation and although the stages are presented as sequential steps, in real situations they are likely to overlap to some extent.

The first two stages, Pause and Postpone, help you handle situations that erupt without warning. In these cases it is easy to react emotionally, making a situation worse and escalating a disagreement.

The next two stages, Prepare and Proceed, help you deal with situations where you wish to do something positive to maintain relations, or restore them by rebuilding damaged trust. The Proceed stage introduces a roadmap to use during restorative dialogue. The roadmap identifies topics to explore when maintaining and rebuilding trust.


  • Pause – helps you check in on your own state of mind and that of others. It’s an opportunity for the social mind to regain control after an emotional reaction.
  • Postpone – provides an opportunity to decide whether to deal with a situation now, or if it would be more helpful to give yourself time to consider the situation further.
  • Prepare – encourages you to think about the best way to handle a difficult situation and who is best placed to deal with it.
  • Proceed – provides a roadmap of what you might explore in a situation that involves disagreement or conflict, and how to go about it.

In many ways the approach is like taking a journey - a potentially hazardous journey. Pause and Postpone help you to not make a knee-jerk reaction and set off straight away. Prepare helps you think about the journey ahead, the potential pitfalls, the vehicle you might need for the journey and whether to go alone or with others. Proceed identifies the places you might visit on the journey to your desired destination.