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Road Map: Navigating Conversations and Concerns 

Miscommunication and conflict are common everywhere. Avoiding conflict is not a solution. Conflict is part of life and can improve relationships if handled well and addressed early.

  1. Talk about the concern in person, promptly and respectfully, directly to the other person if you are comfortable talking with them.  
    • Listen reflectively, with compassionate curiosity, when someone is concerned.
  2. Consult with a third party if needed [see Problem Solving Steps]
    • Throughout, be willing to engage collaboratively in problem solving and move past or away from the problem.


  • Clarify your own thoughts before reaching out.
  • Talk about your concerns early, with the appropriate person, before a situation gets out of hand.
  • Talk in person rather than send one-sided emails. If needed, you can email or message the person to ask to set a time to talk in person.
  • Start discussions in a positive and mutually respectful way. 
  • Remember you are there to solve the problem together collaboratively. Focus on the problem, not the person. It could simply be a problem of miscommunication.
  • Be clear, direct, honest, and open without accusing/attacking the other person. Use “I” statements.
  • Leave your emotions at the door. Focus on the problem, not the person. You can validate each others’ feelings without letting emotions rule the process.
  • Listen with respect and compassionate curiosity for the other person’s perspective/experience. Ask open ended, non-threatening questions.
  • Slow down so you don’t say anything you’ll regret. Consider your words carefully. Remember that opinions aren’t facts. Take breaks as needed.
  • Be willing to apologize (the right way) where appropriate and take responsibility for your own actions. You don’t have to wait for someone to reach out first if you feel it would be right to apologize for a misstep.


  • Assume the worst of others.
  • Assume that others will know what is bothering you without being told.
  • Wait to say anything or avoid dealing with issues until a situation explodes. Resentment can fester and harm relationships.
  • Raise your voice at the other person or continuously interrupt them. Bullying is against UGA policy and the one who resorts to yelling or cursing has lost the moral high ground.
  • Write or speak without thinking while upset – wait before sending/posting until you are calm and can edit your thoughts.
  • Vent on social media/to friends/colleagues without addressing concerns appropriately. This is not the way to be heard. 
  • Invalidate the other person’s concern or feelings.


  • Document and clarify the problem plus what steps you have taken (both for yourself and for the person you’ll take the problem to next).
  • Figure out who to talk to next in the chain [see the Problem Solving Steps]
  • Ask Dina (Fine Arts 302) if you’re not sure of the next best step or who to talk to. 
  • Contact a UGA Ombuds [] if you’d like additional confidentiality or perspective outside the department.
  • Understand where a UGA employee may or may not be able to guarantee confidentiality (if violations of NDAH policy, for example).
  • Know that UGA employees are not able to offer formal mediation services, but some are helpful in facilitating difficult discussions or brainstorming solutions
  • Decide if it’s worth escalating to another level or if you can “agree to disagree.”


  • Insist that others take sides. The goal should still be mutual problem-solving even if you could use a third party’s insights or support.
  • Expect others to be “punished” for their mistakes. Usually no one is 100% right or wrong and there are not always punitive measures against someone in the wrong. There are often other ways to solve problems.
  • Skip ahead to the top of the chain of authority. Those higher up will want to know what has been done at lower levels, departmental level, etc. first.
  • Expect a third party or higher-up to adjudicate all or even most situations. Usually the solution will involve mutual problem-solving unless there is a clear policy violation, and sometimes even then.

At some point, it will be time to let it go and move past the problem. Often mutual problem solving (especially if done early) will be beneficial. Sometimes, the best you can do will be to distance yourself from the person when possible while remaining civil, or to remove yourself from a group/course/program if all else fails. You cannot control other people’s behavior, but you can control how you respond to it.

More: Problem Solving Steps


NPR: Make All Your Arguments Win-Win

NPR: You're Apologizing All Wrong

NPR: How to Handle Conflict

10 Simple Rules for Solving/Avoid Conflict

Avoid the Angry Email (Psychology Today)

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