How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

We take a look at how businesses should adapt communication depending on the audience, objectives and channels being used

By The Fleximize Team

One of the keys to communicating effectively is to be able to tailor your communication to your audience. This can be achieved in various ways and, if done correctly, will allow you to engage your audience quickly and with optimal results.

Know your audience

In business, you’ll communicate with a variety of different people in many different ways. These may include: marketing, networking, staff meetings, client and supplier meetings, disciplinary procedures, as well as communicating with regulators or government agencies.

In each situation, your communication will have certain goals and your aim will be to achieve these goals as effectively as possible. If you’re speaking to a room full of colleagues, you can use jargon and company ideals to present your idea. However, if you are presenting to a room full of potential customers, this might not convert into sales.

As such, having a thorough understanding of your audience is crucial so that you can adapt your message and tone of voice to best suit their needs.

Communication objectives

It’s vital to think about the objectives of each communication, as this will help you design your message. You can then take what you already know about the audience to anticipate their reactions and tailor your message, tone and medium.

For example, are you communicating with customers in order to inform them of a change to your brand, or are you writing to them to promote new products and encourage sales? Each objective will result in very different messaging, including content, tone of voice and the communications channel you employ.

Similarly, if you’re sending out communication to stakeholders or customers on behalf of your business for crisis management or crisis control, the way you choose to communicate and the tone you write in will be very different to if you’re sending out a Christmas or holiday greeting. As such, keeping your objectives in mind will not only help define the tone, but also the best channel of communication for your audience.

Communicating through different channels

Thinking about the channel you are using is also crucial for effective communication as a business. For example, the script given to sales staff or relationship managers when undertaking customer due diligence checks over the phone would be entirely different to the tone of voice used when writing a Tweet about your latest product launch.

As such, it’s important to think about audience segmentation and which channels of communication each of your target audience groups will most likely be using. For a restaurant, sending a text to remind a customer of their upcoming reservation would work. Whereas for B2B companies, sticking to email and telephone communication to liaise with clients is more commonplace.

Adapting communication

Whenever you communicate with an audience, you should be measuring and assessing their reaction, whether that’s in terms of sales, enquiries, leads or even direct feedback. Each time you do this, you’ll learn more about what works and what doesn’t. You’ll then be able to refine your next communication with that audience to better meet your objectives.

Adapting your communication style is also important depending on if the communication is face-to-face or digital. For example, in-person communication with customers or team members will allow you to pay attention to body language and adapt your tone or message accordingly. Meanwhile, over email or digital communication, it’s important to take extra time to consider if your communication fits the right tone for your audience, as this more linear form of communication won’t offer as much feedback as in-person communication.

Failing to modify your communication style to the audience can result in confusion, misunderstanding and even offence. It’s therefore essential that business owners take the time to fully assess which communication style and channel is best suited to each situation.

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Are you the sort of boss that CC’s everyone, for everything? Are you the office gossip? Do you roll your eyes at bad jokes, then find yourself repeating them the next morning at the coffee machine? There are plenty of communication sins that take place at offices around the world, most of them forgivable. But due largely in part to the increasing diversity of today’s workforce, it’s imperative that senior managers recognize the importance of adapting communication styles for every situation, and every employee. The way you address one employee may never raise problems, but could raise eyebrows with another. By appreciating the unique personalities of your staff, understanding your corporate culture, and educating yourself on a number of communication techniques, you can create a happier office environment and improve your company’s performance.

How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

How about trying the “Feel, Felt, Found” method next time you are in a sticky situation?

Step 1. Know Your Audience

From your daily interactions with your colleagues, you must have a sense of the Do’s and Don’ts. In most organizations, there are fairly clear Don’ts – religion, politics, weight gain or loss, family planning… these are some, not all, of the most popular conversation topics to avoid. But perhaps you’ve identified some other areas of interest within your organization. Make a mental note (or even a digital note, if that helps you remember) of certain hot-button topics and language to avoid. It’s not always possible or even advisable to tiptoe around the tough stuff, but a little tact never hurt.

At the same time, this isn’t just about the Don’ts. Pay attention to the topics of interest among your staff. Do they respond better to an authority figure, or a mentor? (Think Machiavelli.) Do they prefer to discuss sensitive matters in a one-on-one setting, or as a larger body, like a State of the Union address? The key is not to figure out hard and fast rules, but to learn how to adapt your communication style for any scenario that may come your way. So by learning more about your employees and their preferences, you’ll establish a sense of how best to talk about the big stuff. The small stuff, too.

Step 2. Choose Your Channel

Some companies operate almost silently, except for the sound of fingertips tapping away on a keyboard. Does your office prefer emails? Or are your halls covered in brightly colored bulletins with information about the newest hires, monthly sales figures, and highlights from last week’s Happy Hour? Or maybe you work in an office where employees thoroughly enjoy hours-long meetings, daily. Whatever the style, chances are that you’ve identified a trend in responsiveness and engagement from your employees. Hone in on whichever method your staff prefers, and try to make this the standard. Company culture is not static – it’s fluid, influenced and affected by every member of your team. So be a part of the change , and make it a change for the best.

Step 3. The Best and Most Brilliant Communication Techniques

The reigning kings of customer service come from Cupertino, California. Apple knows what they’re doing, and they do it well. Straight from their customer service manual, one of the most effective methods of persuasion and conflict resolution is called the “Feel, Felt, Found” method. Consider the situation: you’ve decided to restructure a certain department, and your employees are experiencing frustration with this new change. They’re unhappy with the circumstances, and now it’s up to you to fix the problem. How can you allay their concerns, while maintaining order? Try something like this:

“Team, I know that the recent shift has been a big topic of discussion lately. And I wanted to tell you, you’re not alone. I’m also still adjusting to the new structure. We’ve encountered similar situations here at Company LLC in the past, and I’ve felt the growing pains, too. But I always found that with a clearer direction, we came out of the restructure with more motivation, and a better atmosphere, not to mention an improved work flow. Your concerns are important to me, but I’m grateful for your patience and positive attitudes as we work to embrace this new change!”

First, you acknowledge how they’re feeling, and tell them that you can sympathize. Next, you relate to a time when you felt the same way, and how you handled it. Finally, close by mentioning how you found a new approach or outlook on the situation. This works in most situations, and you’ll be surprised by how often you can implement this with your staff, both individually and on a larger scale.

This is just one of many communication styles, but with techniques like these, senior managers will figure out how adapting communication styles for their employees can help them to succeed.

I whisper when I order food at a restaurant, muzzling the deeper nodes in my vocal chords until I sound like Michael Jackson in interviews. The reason: I used to work in the service industry, so I’m all too familiar with loud, obnoxious assholes. My mouthing my every order as innocuously as I can is my way of balancing the volume of the world order.

That’s not the only place I change my speech patterns either. Any time I’m in a job interview, I’ll readily replace “explain” with “elucidate” when I’m trying to hide my various fuck-ups (I mean, “attempting to obfuscate my incompetence”). It’s silly, but it feels like it happens on a subconscious level, something that just occurs any time I know my skills are being interrogated.

I take comfort, though, in knowing I’m far from the only person who changes their speech pattern as the situation appears to demand. “The components that people modulate, depending on the situation, include their vocabulary, the rate at which they speak and the pitch that they use,” explains Julia Hobbs, a speech pathologist in L.A.

As for why people do this, Hobbs says it has everything to do with emotions. “We’re very effective non-verbal communicators,” she explains. “I work with a lot of adults who will get complaints from employers that their presentation isn’t as good as it could’ve been because they sound nervous. Some people are instinctively better at hiding their emotions.”

According to Hobbs, there are a few ways that people can interpret someone’s communication pattern, but mostly it boils down to their pacing. “When people talk about what grade level someone is speaking at, they’re referring to that person’s vocabulary and their grammar,” explains Hobbs. “If you’re talking about how eloquent they are when they speak, that has less to do with vocabulary and more with their delivery.”

The key to someone being a great communicator, says Hobbs, is the rate of their speech and the clarity in their delivery. “The key thing is their rate of speaking, and whether they drop off the endings of words or compress the middle of words,” says Hobbs. “If you’re listening to someone and you have to break the code of their delivery, you’re not going to like what they’re saying.”

That’s why we’re taught from an early age that it’s important to pronounce words correctly (which, in turn, is why you tend to over-pronounce or use unnaturally verbose language in situations where you feel judged). “The baseline for speech competence by most people’s standard is at the third or fourth grade level,” explains Hobbs. “That’s what the common man’s reading level is.”

Now, to some, that level of speech seems relatable and honest — to others, it marks you out as a stupid. Take a recent analysis that assessed the first 30,000 words spoken by each president in office, for example: After ranking them on the Flesch-Kincaid grade-level scale, as well as more than two dozen other common tests analyzing English-language difficulty levels, researchers found that our current president speaks at the fourth-grade level — the lowest of the last 15 U.S. presidents. How people feel about this is wildly different depending on the person (no surprises there).

Still, the world is gradually edging toward a more casual vernacular. “Everybody has become more casual, no one cares if they use bad grammar,” says Hobbs. “I work with a guy who’s a brilliant venture capitalist, and he says that he doesn’t want to sound too smart because he doesn’t want to come across as pompous.”

Hobbs attributes this “dumbing down” in our society to social media. “Social media hasn’t done one thing to improve communication,” she says. “We’ve all become more isolated, and so our communication patterns don’t seem to have the same level of importance as they did before.”

She cites old movies as evidence that it didn’t used to be this way: “Those actors annunciated every word,” she argues. “They produced every syllable, every nuance. People today, they mumble. They’re too cool to put much effort.”

Which is a fair comment if you’re referring to indie mumblecore movies, of course, but it does seem to ignore the much more realistic dialogue — complete with mumbled delivery — that was common to movies of the 1970s, before the rise of the blockbuster and a more theatrical, precise style of dialogue that’s dominated mainstream movies ever since.

Hobbs’ point, though, is that we should never underestimate the importance of sounding intelligent. “We’re judged by how we look, then by how we sound,” says Hobbs. “People will decide in about 30 seconds whether you’re worth listening to.”

With that in mind, it’s a wonder my meal ever arrives correctly at restaurants.

Back to Framework Home

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Before you explore the framework details, here are some things to consider.

Recognize that:

  • group or team communication practices may differ across cultures
  • communication practices affect collaboration and consensus building
  • tolerance of ambiguity affects working with others
  • nonverbal communication impacts workplace discussions
  • ways of thinking impact communication

Learn more about the:

  • different levels of formality that apply within particular contexts
  • impact of hierarchical orientations on workplace communication
  • impact of jargon and idiomatic language on the clarity and formality of communication
  • different expectations in high and low context ways of communicating
  • expectations of teamwork in own workplace


Back to Framework Home

Scroll down


Before you explore the framework details, here are some things to consider.

Recognize that:

  • notions of hierarchy may differ across cultures
  • culture may impact understanding of roles and responsibilities
  • cultural diversity plays a role in conflict resolution
  • culture influences critical thinking, problem solving and decision making
  • different ways of communicating may lead to misunderstandings

Learn more about the:

  • organization’s ethics, values, standards and workplace culture
  • organization’s structure, hierarchy, and reporting relationships
  • expectations of own role and how it contributes to the organization’s objectives
  • intersection of own role with others within the organizational hierarchy
  • organization’s expectations associated with the use of communication technologies


Back to Framework Home


Before you explore the framework details, here are some things to consider.

Recognize that:

  • group or team communication practices may differ across cultures practices affect collaboration and consensus building
  • tolerance of ambiguity affects working with others impacts workplace discussions
  • ways of thinking impact communication

Learn more about the:

  • different levels of formality that apply within particular contexts
  • impact of hierarchical orientations on workplace communication
  • impact of jargon and idiomatic language on the clarity and formality of communication
  • different expectations in high and low context ways of communicating
  • expectations of teamwork in own workplace

Work with others

Adapt communication to different people and situations

Be able to communicate in a flexible way by changing tone, register and delivery to meet the needs of people from different backgrounds as well as different contexts and situations

It may be necessary to adapt the way you communicate when the person you are communicating with use’s English as a second language, has a Hearing impairment/deaf, Medical problem, disability, Special educational needs, Poor vision or blind. When we are communicating with children and young people with [SEN] it is important to use the following

  • Speak clearly and appropriately when communicating.
  • Slow your speech if necessary.
  • Use visual aids such as pictures, photograph or flashcards.
  • Use a translator if necessary.
  • Use sign language.
  • Maintain good eye contact and use positive body language.

Use facial expressions and hand gestures. Someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, Be sure to face the person when speaking, speak slowly or you may need to use sign language if you know how to do it and Avoid using facial expressions e. g. , a frown as

this could upset them and make them think that something is wrong Children and young people with autism, they can find it easier to understand the world around them through visual aids. Teachers may use a visual timetable showing times and simple drawings of the activities, so that the child or young person knows exactly what they will be doing and when.

A child or young person how has Poor vision or blindness, you should address the visually impaired child or young person by their name when talking to them, If a child has some useful vision, move them closer to the front of the class so they can see you and the board more clearly, don’t be afraid to ask what an object looks like as this will help you to understand how much they can see. Someone who does not speak English well, you will need to speak slowly, may need to re-explain using different words may need a translation or use visual aids.

How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

A few weeks ago, I sat down to cast my vote for the president, as well as Florida’s proposed amendments. I got about a third of the way through one of the amendments, until I realized I had absolutely no idea what I had just read. I re-read it, over and over again. I found myself wondering if I were the only one or if everyone was having trouble understanding clearly what was being said. As I sat there, I immediately thought of the number one rule for any type of communication: Adopting and creating an audience-centered approach. How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

When expecting someone to understand you, or in this case, make an informed and confident decision, the first step is creating audience-specific content. This allows the reader to be able to relate to, remain interested in, and easily understand the information. I immediately thought if these proposed amendments were aimed at the general public, why did they have to be written in such a confusing and complicated way. In my opinion, they were not at all audience-friendly.

One of the most important things to do as a writer, despite the topic, is adapting an audience-centered approach. But how do you do that? There are several different aspects to keep in mind when creating a piece of work tailored to an audience.

Before you can adapt to the audience, you need to:

How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

Know who your audience is. You may want to ask yourself: What information are they looking for? What do they already know about the topic? What are they hoping to gain out of this information? The answers to these questions will ultimately help in tailoring the message to meet their interests and needs.

Adapting to Different Situations:

There may be different situations in which you have to alter your communication to be audience specific. Whether you are creating a business message, delivering a presentation, or even blogging, different situations require some sort of adaptation.

Creating Business Messages:

When creating a business message, it may be important to remember to gain a sense of the audience’s level of understanding. This may require you to think more carefully in your choice of words, in order to make the audience be able to better relate to you. If the level of understand varies among everyone in the audience, it may be more difficult to relate to everyone. However, the most important people to gain the interest and attention of, is the more influential, higher up decision makers. So you may want to spend a little extra time tailoring and meeting the needs of these select few audience members.

How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

Delivering a Presentation:

When delivering a presentation, adapting to an audience-specific style, is still an important thing to remember. The size of the audience can be an indicator on just how you should adapt. Generally a larger audience entails a more formal presentation, and may even mean a higher expectation of the presenter and their knowledge of the topic. (Make sure you know the topic like the back of your hand, especially when it comes to question and answer time!) On the other hand, a smaller audience may be, but not always, be just the opposite. It may call for a more relaxed environment, with a more conversational tone.

However, just because the audience is small, don’t automatically think your presentation and style of communication is less formal or less important. You must always, always create an audience profile and adapt to the specific audience in any given situation.

Erin Van Etten is a senior at the University of South Florida studying criminal justice and psychology. She also currently works as a Case Manager for the 13th Judicial Administrative Office of the Courts.

How to adapt the way you communicate to different situations

If there’s one thing we all know for sure, it’s that change is constant. Mergers and acquisitions, growth set-backs, leadership shake-ups and company-wide policy updates — whatever the change, you can bet it will impact your employees.

In recent years, we’ve watched giant organizations navigate the waters of change management on the global stage. Whether we see it or not, companies communicating change publicly are also often communicating it internally — and this can be tricky at any size.

Change isn’t always easy, but keeping employees involved, informed and empowered throughout the process makes a big difference in both the employee experience and the outcome of the change. McKinsey research estimates that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance.

Need help crafting communications that soothe jagged employee nerves during times of change? These best practices for h ow to communicate change in the workplace will set you on the path to seamless transitions.

8 methods and techniques for communicating change:

1. Be clear and honest when communicating change to employees

Any sort of spin, sugarcoating or jargon will look like an effort to hide something. You’ll gain employees’ trust if you use simple, straightforward language, and are completely upfront about what’s changing and why. Don’t talk down to employees — this only makes them feel resentful and unvalued. Some companies make the mistake of believing their employees “can’t handle the truth,” but people respond well to respectful and honest communication. Employees at merged companies understand why changes are being made less than those at non-merged companies. In the shuffle, it’s too easy to forget that employees need the basics: what and why.

2. Use care when communicating organizational change

It’s not just public events that create unease: HR changes often strike a personal chord with employees. Suddenly the company is monkeying with their healthcare, and maybe that affects their sick child. Or a company might be implementing an outcomes-based wellness program, forcing employees to make lifestyle changes rather than inspiring them to focus on what matters most to them. Take these concerns into consideration when deciding how to communicate change in the workplace — and outright acknowledge them too. Sometimes people just need to feel heard — in times when trust is damaged, empathy and understanding are the first steps to rebuilding.

3. Tell employees what’s in it for them

It’s the age-old marketing credo: What’s in it for me? We’re all looking out for #1, so hyping “good corporate citizenship” as a reason for change is a waste of time. Explain the benefits of the change and what employees can expect. Yes, things will be different. Acknowledge that. Yes, everyone may not like what’s changing. Acknowledge that too. But there’s generally an upside, so outline that as well.

If there’s no upside, then say so. Admit that what’s happening … well, sucks, and talk about what you’ll do to make the change as smooth as possible. Then thank employees for their patience, cooperation and for sticking with you through the shift.

4. Set expectations with change management communication

Employees feel reassured and are quicker to get on board when you paint a clear picture of exactly what’s going to happen and when. If you have to use a step-by-step list, do it. If your employees respond well to graphics, use them. Just make sure to set expectations by explaining the process so people can clearly see the road ahead.

5. Tell employees what they need to do

The term “call to action” gets tossed around so much for good reason. It’s critical to outlining what needs to be done and when. This is what people are looking for at the end of a communication, so use bulleted lists, bold font, links to websites, etc. to highlight the necessary action. Even if there isn’t an essential next step for your employees, create one. Make sure everyone feels involved and they’ll join you through the change or transition.

6. Cascade leadership messages on change

Change communications are generally best delivered from the top. Develop a cascading messaging strategy that starts with your CEO or a senior VP, and then encourage directors and managers to discuss the change in more detail with their teams. Make sure to use a variety of media: email, all-hands meetings, company communications apps, home mailings (especially if family members are affected) and an FAQ for nitty-gritty details. And also remember to engage in direct conversations — create opportunities for employees to privately deliver messages or ask questions. Make it a topic in manager one-on-ones. Just make sure people feel like they can ask tough, personal questions.

7. Target your change management communication

Give careful thought to whether specific audiences are more affected by the change. For example, with healthcare changes, you may want to develop communications specific to families or those with chronic conditions. When change is isolated within a department or facility, communicate it widely, but show employees closer to the change that you’re invested in their employee experience. This kind of targeting ensures you’re not overwhelming the entire organization with support only a select group truly needs.

8. Create two-way strategies for communicating change

Remember what we said above — about employees needing to feel heard? Create two-way communication channels where they can ask questions, express their concerns and get answers. A dedicated email alias is a great start, but a town hall (or series) goes one step further. It’s more personal and — if it you execute it right — feels like “we’re all in this together.” Allow employees to ask questions and address all of them clearly and honestly. If you take away nothing else from this post, remember those two words for h ow to communicate change in the workplace.

Speaking clearly and honestly is key to communicating with employees at any time, but especially during uncertain — and sometimes unsettling — times of change.

Rachelle Enns is an interview coach and job search expert. She works with candidates to perform their best in employment, medical, and post-secondary admission interviews.

Question 1 of 20

Tell me about a time when you improved communication between yourself and a co-worker or client.

The interviewer would like to know about a time that your communication skills improved a work-based situation. Possessing the skills to enhance communication in the workplace is a precious asset. Talk to the interviewer about a time when you used your excellent communication skills to improve a potentially harmful situation with a co-worker or client. Perhaps you saved a sale, were able to reiterate the intention of an email before feelings were hurt, or you helped a cross-departmental effort to go smoothly.

“In my current position I have one particular client who was an exceptionally brief communicator. If I asked two questions, he would answer just one. I learned that he would not acknowledge anything for which he did not have an answer. I began to ask him questions in a different way. For example, I would say ‘Do you have an answer for me on question X?’ and he would say yes or no. We would then go from there. This method was a valid form of communication for that particular client.”

“I am often the main point of contact for clients which means that my communication style needs to be crystal clear. Before onboarding a new client I have a set of questions that I ask. They are discovery questions, and I then pass onto my executive. The answers come directly from the client, so no assumptions are made. It’s always first-hand information that I am providing.”

“I recently worked on a project with team members from multiple sites. At first, we were emailing back and forth, but that wasn’t working. I implemented a regular conference call to iron out issues and communicate updates.”

“Recently, we were working with a client who continued to change the direction of our work. Our team was heading down one path and before we knew it, the client expected us to go another direction. We resolved to hold a weekly status touch base call to ensure two-way communication between our team and the client.”

“Many of our customers misread our return policy and assume that they can return an item to any one of our locations. Being a franchise, this is something we cannot accommodate. I recently requested to head office that we include this caveat in our return policy more clearly. The corporate head office agreed, and implemented the changes.”

“I had a client who often missed email updates. It caused us to cross our wires a few times. I suggested that we book a quick call every week to review any outstanding areas that need addressing. This process worked well for us.”

“I work continuously on improving communication between myself and the parents of my students. I recently polled the parents asking them if they prefer that letters are sent home, or emailed. A whopping 87% of the parents said they preferred email communication, so I implemented a regular e-newsletter containing news from our classroom and any files that needed to be signed and sent back.”

“In my current position I have one particular client who was an exceptionally brief communicator. If I asked two questions, he would answer just one. I learned quickly that he would not acknowledge anything he did not have a direct answer for. I began to ask him questions in a different way. For example, I would say ‘Do you have an answer for me on question X?’ and he would say yes or no. We would then go from there. This was an effective method of communication for that particular client.”

“In my current position I have one particular board member who is an exceptionally brief communicator. If I ask two questions, he will answer just one. I learned quickly that he would not acknowledge anything he did not have a direct answer for. I began to ask him questions in a different way. For example, I will say ‘Do you have an answer for me on question X?’ and he will say yes or no. We then go from there. This is a useful method of communication for that particular individual.”

“In my current position I have one particular client who was an exceptionally brief communicator. If I asked 2 questions, he would answer just one. I learned quickly that he would not acknowledge anything he did not have a direct answer for. I began to ask him questions in a different way. For example, I would say ‘Do you have an answer for me on question X?’ and he would say yes or no. We would then go from there. This was an effective method of communication for that particular client.”

“In my last job, there was a vendor who was not answering my e-mails in a timely fashion, so I decided to schedule weekly meetings to update each other and discuss any issues in the invoices.”

Being a great job candidate involves more than possessing qualifications and experience. Work often involves interacting with many stakeholders of differing opinions, so hiring managers often aim to know how you may approach conflict in the workplace. It is common for interviewers to ask questions that address your interpersonal skills and how your emotional intelligence might guide you in times of conflict. Your response will provide insight into your personality and will also indicate how likely you are to function well within a team.

In this article, we list common interview questions and answers about conflict and provide some points to remember when answering these questions in an interview.

How do you deal with conflict?

To answer this question successfully, assure your interviewer that you are a good listener who can accept opposing views without getting upset. You could also mention how conflict resolution should take place in a private space. Aim to provide an example if possible.

Example: “I actively readjust my attitude during a conflict situation. This means that I strive to listen to the other person’s point of view without becoming defensive. I also attempt to move the confrontation to a private space to avoid further complications.”

Can you recall a time of conflict with a coworker?

Behavioral questions require you to describe how you acted in a real-life situation. Prospective employers ask this type of question to learn more about your personality. Past behavior often indicates how you would react in comparable future situations, so be sure to provide an example you are proud of or to explain the lessons you took away from the experience. It is important to emphasize the resolution that took place, as opposed to dwelling on the conflict itself.

The STAR approach may prove helpful when answering this type of question. This acronym stands for:

  • Situation: Briefly explain the issue you were dealing with in a positive, constructive way.
  • Task: Describe your role in the situation.
  • Action: Discuss what you did to resolve or address the situation.
  • Result: Emphasize what you learned and how your actions had a positive outcome.

Example: “I was working as a project manager on an IT project, and one technician was constantly late finishing tasks. When I approached him about it, he reacted defensively. I kept calm and acknowledged that the deadlines were challenging and asked how I could assist him in improving his performance. He calmed down and told me that he was involved in another project where he had to do tasks that were not in his job description. After a meeting with the other project manager, we came to a resolution that alleviated the technician’s workload. For the remainder of the project, the technician delivered great work.”

Tell me about a time you disagreed with your boss.

 Although interviewers often like to hear that prospective employees are honest and have strong opinions, they nevertheless want new team members who respond well to authority.

It is advisable to remember the following when answering this question: First, avoid saying anything derogatory about a former manager, as your interviewer will likely interpret this as unprofessional behavior. Second, ensure that your answer demonstrates that you respect authority and are able to follow directions.

Example: “In some instances, I have felt it necessary to voice my opinion when I disagreed with a boss, and it has actually proven to be constructive. For instance, a previous manager’s unfriendly behavior had a negative influence on my work, and I started losing motivation and job satisfaction. Eventually I asked for a meeting and told him, in a calm and polite way, how I felt. To my surprise, he told me he was having difficulty in his personal life and was not coping well. After that, he made an effort to be less critical, and I was more understanding.”

How do you approach diversity in coworkers?

It is vital to celebrate diversity in the workplace. Most companies today feature a multi-cultural workforce that consists of people with different religions, political affiliations and beliefs, so an employee who accepts and aims to learn about differences in background is far more likely to make a great team member.

Example: “I love to inform myself about different cultures, opinions and perspectives. I deeply appreciate the beauty diversity brings to the world, and I am always seeking to learn more about how to inform myself about and support other communities.”

Methods for dealing with conflict situations

Employers are increasingly prioritizing applicants with emotional intelligence because employees with strong soft skills and interpersonal ability are more likely to work well as part of a team. It is advisable to remember the following emotionally intelligent habits when answering conflict interview questions:

Fostering relationships with colleagues

A “relationship” in this context does not necessarily mean friendship or closeness, but rather points to a mutual understanding in which members of a team agree upon roles and boundaries in the workplace. If you want to establish a professional relationship with a coworker, it can be beneficial to do so in a systematic way. You could call a meeting and discuss the following:

What role each person has and what their respective responsibilities are

Possible conflicts that may have taken place in the past, and how to best deal with issues going forward

Rules with regard to meetings and email etiquette

Communication is key

Many conflicts take place due to a lack of communication and understanding. For this reason, it is usually better to voice a difference in opinion immediately and in a civilized way, rather than allowing underlying resentment and anger to result in conflict.

Learn to listen to coworkers

There is a difference between hearing what coworkers are saying and employing focused listening. The latter involves listening with intent, as well as interpreting non-verbal clues such as body language. If you learn to listen to people more closely, you will respond in a more understanding way. Coworkers are also likely to notice that you’re more receptive, which might change the way they listen to you in return. In such a working environment, it is more likely that conflict will either not arise or that it will be settled in a calm way.

Act and react objectively in the workplace

Although it is common for individuals to act in an emotional and subjective way, you should always strive to be as objective as possible in the workplace. Attempt to focus on a coworker’s behavior, as opposed to concentrating on aspects of their personality.

Identify recurring conflict situations

If the same conflict repeatedly arises in the workplace, take steps to resolve the matter in an effective way. The best way to deal with such a situation is to identify the exact point of contention and calmly discuss possible resolutions.