When you’re in a conflict or confrontation it can be hard to think straight, making it hard to resolve the situation appropriately.

Here’s a quick easy acronym to help: LEAF (Listen, Empathize, Action plan, Follow through)

A simple and perhaps obvious, but often missed, first step. Why? We either jump to a conclusion about what the other person is saying or we, too quickly, move to problem-solving mode. In both cases, we prematurely stop listening. Taking the time to listen to the other person allows us to get all of the facts, and to fully understand their position and needs.

“I understand how upset this issue makes you feel.” Empathizing with the other person helps them know that you heard them. Not just the facts about the issue but how they feel about it. It helps you align with them so they can see you as a partner rather than an opponent. As Theodore Roosevelt said: ‘No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care’.

Action plan
Ok, you’ve listened and empathized, now what are you going to do about the issue? Clearly outline the steps you’ll take to resolve the problem and get the other person’s agreement that those steps will, in fact, do just that. It also gives the other person a chance to offer a modification to your plan or suggest an alternative.

Follow through
Once you’ve agreed on an action plan – do it, and do it quickly. We have all been disappointed by someone who promised to do something for us and didn’t; and felt the harmful impact on trust that followed. Taking quick action not only addresses the issue at hand, it demonstrates to the other person your seriousness and commitment to making things right.

Conflict doesn’t have to be a negative, destructive experience. Remembering a few key steps, like LEAF, can help you use conflict to build and strengthen relationships instead.