Dental Office Conflict

Tuesday Tip from Pride Institute: STEP up to resolve conflict in your dental practice

Nov. 11, 2014
It takes a certain mindset to resolve conflict – one willing to compromise and discuss options. It's easier than it sounds.

This Tuesday Tip will introduce you to a tool that will help resolve conflict. Conflicts often result from a fundamental lack of understanding between people. How often have you sensed that the other person is just not on the same wavelength as you? Putting yourself in that person’s shoes is invaluable at minimizing conflict. It’s better to deal with conflict rather than hoping it goes away on its own.

One way to deal with conflict is to “STEP into conflict.” We’re often quick to assume that conflict has no mutually satisfactory solution. Talking a problem through is not easy. Confronting an issue may require us to expose ourselves to rejection, and we may have to admit that we contributed to the problem. While effective two-way communication can occur naturally some of the time, for the most part it needs to be carefully planned. The good news is that there are simple and effective tools to turn disagreements into positive outcomes, and it's called STEP.

Seek to understand – To understand another person, we must be willing to be influenced. When we’re open, we give people room to release their fixed positions and consider alternatives. Where does understanding begin? Demanding to be understood is a way of saying, "You open up your mind to me." Wanting to understand the other person is a way of saying, "I'll open my mind up for you."

Then be understood – Once someone understands, they can seek to be understood. By now it’s much more likely that you will actually be understood, because the other person's desire to be understood has been satisfied. When both parties understand both points of view, you can work from there to discover possible outcomes.

Empathize with others – Ask questions and express interest in the other person by listening to his or her side of the situation. When you show empathy, people become less defensive about their position. Instead, they open up to, "How can we both get what we want?" By considering other options, never-before-considered alternatives can come into play.

Problem Solve – Find ways to solve the problems at the heart of the conflict by basing solutions on the needs of all involved rather than on the positions people have taken.

Apply this tool to your next disagreement. Remember the following keys while making connections with others.
1. Find common ground with others.
2. Identify as many areas as possible where all parties are in agreement and interests are the same.
3. Highlight areas of agreement as a powerful way to move a conflict forward.
4. It is essential to be flexible.
5. Commit to maintaining an open mind. Without that commitment, you’re more likely to fall back into a my-way-or-the-highway mindset.
6. Options. There are always options.
7. Brainstorm possible solutions in a way that will satisfy all parties.
8. Don’t get hooked into just three possibilities: your way, the other person’s way, or bland compromise. By jointly considering other options, never-before-considered alternatives can come into play.

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Tuesday Tips from Pride Institute are provided weekly on their Facebook page as well as in this column in DentistryIQ. To ensure you don’t miss any of Pride Institute’s proven methods to take your practice to the next level, visit, and like them on Facebook.