Managing Emotions in a Conflict

September 28, 2016

By Andrea Cowan, Dispute Resolution Counselor with BBB serving Mainland BC


Often when a customer is dissatisfied and raises their concerns, emotions are running high. It is important to recognize the emotional perspective of your customer - as well as your own emotions. This article will focus on tools for managing emotions for productive problem solving. At BBB, we are here to share our expertise and experience with you.

  • Listen carefully to ensure understanding. For written complaints, re-read the complaint once more and try to put yourself in the complainant’s shoes.
  • De-escalation can be achieved by both acknowledging feeling or inquiring into content. Use your discretion to decide which of these will be your central approach when responding. Complaint content should be examined from a place of curiosity: to clarify details not to challenge details.
  • Manage your own emotions. Discuss the problem and possible solutions with your team or one of our dispute councilors. Discussing the issue from your perspective can help increase self-awareness and allows you to better assess the situation.
  • Take a break and allow yourself time to think and center. Re-read your response with fresh eyes. If the discussion is in person, take a step back and check in with yourself. Breathe!
  • Avoid expressions of frustration. Disregard outrageous claims and refocus the conversation on central issues. It can be difficult to not take accusatory language personally, however, it’s central to managing your own emotions.
  • Do not take an adversarial mindset. Responding is not a defensive position, but an opportunity to share your perspective.
  • Do not allow disrespectful language or behaviour. Acknowledge your preference for professional communication and model respectful behaviour.
  • Promptly acknowledging the complaint will set the other party at ease. When an issue cannot be resolved immediately, it is important to let your customer know the matter is receiving your attention. Whenever possible, tell your customer how long it will take to complete action and advise of any delays.
  • Offer problem solving. This shows the other party you are committed to finding a resolution.


The above tools are key in growing your skills in effective conflict management. Whatever the problem or its cause, successfully managing emotions can increase the likelihood of a resolution and repair the relationship between yourself and your customer.