Nov 12th, 2018 ⋅ 5 min read

Communication during conflicts

To communicate or to share information.

People communicate all the time and there are 5 reasons why we do it. When we communicate we have higher chances of surviving. It is a product of our evolution and life struggle. We communicate because interaction brings positive effects to our emotional life. Sharing our feelings or talking about a highly stressed situation can result in relief or satisfaction.

Communication can also be a tool to help us shape our personal identity. Talking about how we had a big fight with our parents or writing a diary about the first guy we kissed can help us explore or redefine our identities, especially during adolescence. Good communication is a skill that can be developed and mastered but only through practice. We learn through communication, so let's communicate more.


The topic of this article is meta-communication, or the communication about communication. It helps us understand and analyze the way we communicate, and how to change our approach to our communication process.

There are a few ways to communicate, and they are often divided into 4 groups: verbal, nonverbal, symbolical and written. Depending on how many participants we talk to, our communication can be intrapersonal, interpersonal, group and public.

What we communicate, and how we do it - is up to us.

Non - verbal communication

What does nonverbal communication actually mean? I love to describe it as communication without words or sounds. It is not possible to prevent that type of communication because even when you are not actively communicating, you are sending a message.

There are few elements to non-verbal communication. Facial expressions are the instant-messaging part of the platform, next to eye-contact. If you are comfortable with holding prolonged eye-contact whilst talking to somebody, deliberately avoiding it will be noticeable.

Body language is another well known part of communication. Playing with your hair while talking, or crossing legs when sitting can send the wrong message. The same goes for your movements and joints (i.e. cracking knuckles). Personal space is also very important. I define it as the number of centimeters your interlocutor could be closer to you, without you feeling uncomfortable. Sometimes it can also be a cultural factor. For example, the personal space is wider in Finland rather than in Italy. Moreover, physical appearance (clothes, makeup, hair style, body odor, hygiene) is also a tool you can use to send a proper non-verbal message. It is OK to match your physical appearance with your artsy spirit, but if it crosses the arbitrary culture-defined line, it could be seen as unacceptable. Unfortunately for some, the same goes for (visible) tattoos, piercings and plugs, especially in the business sector.

Verbal communication during the conflict

The good news; if you are the one who wants to share what is on your mind - you can prepare for the conflict that might arise. The bad news is that the factor of surprise will play against you if someone else is the one initiating the conflict.

But nevertheless, it is very important to learn how to deal with conflicts because avoiding them is not a good thing to do. Avoiding confrontation because you don’t feel comfortable during confrontation, or you feel like you will hurt somebodies feelings, will end with you counting peoples mistakes, without letting them know about the problem. So when things start to build up, you will probably burst out on the wrong person, or you will not manage the conflict properly. When a conflict occurs, how you communicate is very important.

How you say things is very important, maybe even more so than what you say. It is hard, no doubt, to control how you say things, because when angry it's hard to empathize.

Imagine a reverse situation where someone is yelling at you. You will not see their hurt ego or their disappointment, but those are also emotions and we all have them, no matter where the conflicts occurred – at home, at the office…

I would like to share one major tip on how to deal with conflicts, as well as how to say what you want to say at the same time. Focusing on the situation rather than on the person is the way to go. The situation is similar when you are the one being yelled at.

If you are being yelled at try to distinguish if that person is actually angry at you, or at the situation. Try to see their emotions hidden underneath and what caused them. Commonly it is connected to difference in values and principles. Different values come from different cultural backgrounds. And being a founder, an entrepreneur, meeting and working with people from different cultures is normal. Conflicts because of different values and principles are almost unavoidable.

When you want to be sure you are sending the message you want to send during a conflict, remember the “you” and “me” messages.

Here is an example of a YOU message:
You are so stupid! You always hire idiots and I am the one who has to work with them! You hired him – you work with him!

When sending a message that focuses on the person rather than on the situation, you will end up telling somebody that they are stupid. This is obviously not the way to go. Someones behavior doesn't determine their identity and does not give you the right to insult them. Using the words "always" and "never" gives out an impression that you were avoiding being honest for a while, while counting their mistakes.

Let me show you the ME message:
When you hire somebody whom I don’t find adequate, it makes me feel angry because I have to work with them. Next time please don’t hire someone who I don’t approve of and I will find the time to help you with the hiring process.

Use “I” statements because they emphasize you, your emotions and what the situation means to you. Sometimes, the conflict occurs because somebody’s behavior prevents you from doing something, or pushes you into doing something you don’t what to do. And at the end, say what you want from the person to do next time rather than what you don’t want them to do. If you have an opportunity to invest yourself or your time to engage in the next situation that leads to conflict, you can use it. It is good to "give" something back, to prevent the conflict the next time.

To wrap things up, when you want to share that you are upset, follow this 3-step formula:

1. When you do this...
2. Then I feel... because I can/can't...
3. Next time please do..., and I will...

That way, your message will be clear because you are focusing on the situation and on the behavior, instead of the person or your impression of the situation.

Do you think I can bring value to your company, organization or you?
I would be happy to talk with you!


My name is Marta. I aim to help employees, founders and CEOs by bringing their attention to the importance of well being, a good work-life balance and physical, mental health improvement.

I worked as an associate at the THINK Accelerate in Helsingborg, Sweden. My role was to support startups during the three-month program with their stress management and team management. The program ended with an #HBGTECH where I participated as an organizer.

I also held talks at Lund University, at THINK Open space and at #HBGTECH.

I volunteered at Techstars London DemoDay 2017 and 2018 where I helped with the organization of the Demo Day.

Do you think I can bring value to your company, organization or you?
I would be happy to talk with you!

Contact me!