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Dealing With Conflict

As recruiters, we often find ourselves in difficult conversations. Be that with our clients, candidates, vendors, employees, and even our family members. There are several things to keep in mind when dealing with conflict. First, let’s cover some best practices:

  • When you know you’re going into a difficult conversation, preparation is your friend. The more you prepare, the more comfortable you’ll be during the conversation. Anticipate responses and think through how you might address them. 
  • Make sure you know what you want the outcome of the conversion to be, and don’t shy away from stating it from the start. “I’d like to talk through some issues with the hiring process, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to tighten it up and attract better candidates.”
  • When they respond to you with anything, find something you can agree with, and start your response with, Yes, and… Even if you can’t find something to agree with, you can validate their feelings – because no matter what, those are real. 
  • Be curious! It’s easy to jump to conclusions, especially when emotions are already elevated. When someone says something to you, and it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, pause. Take a moment, and check your assumptions. See the list below for how to engage in these moments.

Clever Phrases to Help Conflict Discussions

  • Help me understand… This is one of my favorites and go-to’s in a difficult discussion. Sometimes it will follow with, Are you saying… and this gives you an opportunity for clarity. It’s critically important to note there cannot be one ounce of disdain or sarcasm in your voice. If there is, you’ll only be escalating the situation.
  • In my experience… This is an excellent starter to sharing your opinion without mandating your opinion is the right one. Often, after sharing something, I might follow it up with a question, Have you ever seen or experienced it this way?
  • Have you considered… This allows you offer a new perspective, but it’s soft. It’s not shoving your opinion down their throat. Sometimes, just having a courteous buffer to the beginning of your opinion makes all the difference.
  • I see where you’re coming from… This is powerful! We often forget to agree when we’re in a conflict situation. Even if there’s nothing you are willing to compromise on, it’s still extremely powerful. For example, Mr. Client, I see where you’re coming from. You don’t want to invest thousands in hiring one person without having some protections in place. I understand that need. Let’s talk through options and see what we can do to make both of us comfortable with these terms.
  • I might be wrong, but… I love adding the caveat of being incorrect. Demonstrating your openness to being wrong instantly diffuses the other person and shows you’re open-minded and will possibly compromise. It doesn’t mean you are wrong, or you will compromise, it only softens what you’re about to share.
  • I value our relationship more than this disagreement. Boom! This comment shifts the discussion from winning an argument to preserving the relationship. It shows you can put your ego aside and prioritize the person and your relationship.  

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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