Black Hats and Raised Eyebrows – Smart Strategies for Resolving Conflict

Work would be awesome if we could just be rid of those irritating people.

Workload is the number one cause of stress at work. People issues are number two. (AIS)

Resolve conflict or drama intensifies.

Causes of workplace conflict:

#1. Black hats and white hats.

You’re the person in the white hat. That burr under your saddle is the person in the black hat.

We respond to stories, not behaviors.

A story that assumes negative intent and/or lack of character creates conflict. For example…

The black hat blows up in a meeting. She has a BAD temper. But when you lose your cool, it’s because you’re tired and stressed.


  1. Assume good intentions. Smart people don’t intentionally do stupid things. They believe they’re serving their own best interest.
  2. Ask yourself, “Why would a smart person do such a stupid thing?”
  3. Confirm the story. “I noticed you lost your temper in our meeting. What’s going on with you?”
  4. Choose compassionate confrontation. You aren’t trying to prove a point. You’re trying to be helpful.

#2. Raised eyebrows and other irritants.

After an argument, your teenage son agrees to take out the trash but gives you a sarcastic look. Now you’re really ticked!

Conflict is often about how-you-do, not what you do.

Conflict escalates in the face of:

  1. Rudeness.
  2. Loudness.
  3. Silence.
  4. Aggressiveness.
  5. Irritation.
  6. Isolation.
  7. Neglect.
  8. Sarcastic tone.
  9. Harshness.
  10. Disrespect.


  1. Monitor your body language. Are you open or closed?
  2. Ask yourself if the conflict is worth it. Before you poke the bear, ask yourself if you’re ready to wrestle.
  3. Acknowledge the power of tone, timing, and verbiage. How much time would you like to spend dealing with the consequences of a harsh tone?

Tip: Anger suggests you’re trying to control someone. A kind demeanor and gentle tone might be more effective.

What are some causes of workplace conflict?

Bonus material:

Conflict Resolution (noaa)

Solving conflict includes treating people with respect. (SHRM)