Constantly developing themselves, the HTI Catalysts explored their own approach to conflict, studied the book Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton & Sheila Heen, and practiced using the 4 steps to giving feedback in challenging settings.

What they discovered is that clarity can crumble conflict. But how do you get to clarity when judgement, perceptions and personalities cloud your vision?

Here are five ideas to consider when receiving or giving feedback in professional and personal situations:


  1. Stay curious. Even though you THINK you know why they did it, who they care about and what they hope happens to you — YOU DON’T KNOW. Assume the best and remember you never know what someone else has experienced if they don’t tell you.


  1. Listen more than you talk. If there’s silence, let there be silence. I promise you – your conversation partner will eventually fill the space with the things that probably needed to be said so allow the space for that to happen.


  1. Ask questions. When you want to tell somebody what they’re thinking or what they should do, don’t. Ask another question. Here are a few that work for me:

– What would you like to learn more about (related to this project or issue)?

– What is difficult or challenging?

– How can I help?

– When have you experienced success (in a similar setting?)

– And my favorite of all time: Can you say more?


  1. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings. I-messages and the Difficult Conversations steps for giving feedback both require us to get in touch with our feelings. In fact, out of the 3 types of conversations Stone et al. outline, two are all about feelings. They are the feelings and the identity conversations. I am working on my ability to brush feedback off my bruised ego and to remember I am still worthy and competent even in the midst of receiving adjusting feedback, which is ultimately an opportunity to get better.


  1. Keep the “what happened?” conversation simple. Just repeat what happened. Not what you thought you heard, why you think it happened, the number of times it happened before (okay, sometimes that last one is relevant). Just tell what happened. Just the facts.


The next time you are in a conflict or receiving or giving adjusting feedback, remember to say more and listen even more. And leave all of your judgments, predictions and preconceived notions in the parking lot.