P&R Languages Blog

Have a conflict you need to resolve in English? Try these tips!

5 English Language Tips for Handling Conflict

Conflict is an unfortunate reality in business. Miscommunications, unrealistic expectations, and sometimes just plain bad luck can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and lost customers/business partners in the worst cases.

Thankfully, there are some tricks and tips you can use when emailing or speaking to your clients, co-workers, and colleagues to soften your language and resolve conflict in an amicable way.

1. Avoid accusatory language ("you")

There’s a huge difference between saying:

“You didn’t deliver the results you promised us”


“The results we were promised weren’t delivered.”

Remember, using “you” during a conflict is the verbal equivalent of pointing your finger in someone’s face. Use passive voice to soften your language.

2. Take responsibility where needed

There is nothing worse than dealing with someone who won’t admit fault. When you’ve messed up, say so – the person on the other end of the apology will appreciate your candour if nothing else, and an honest apology is the best way towards any conflict resolution. Here are some phrases you could use:

“Please accept my apologies for…”

“I want to apologize to you for…”

“I am really sorry about…”

3. Place the responsibility where it belongs

Take responsibility where you should, but also place it at your counterpart’s feet if need be. Again, passive voice is very useful here:

“Sorry, Helen, but unfortunately we’re not going to be able to cover these costs as the error did not occur on our end.”

“Regrettably, as the damage to the products occurred after we had transferred them to a second logistics company, we must insist on full payment and suggest that the matter be taken up with them.”

4. Refer back to previous conversations/evidence

In the case of a misunderstanding, refer back to previous conversations using some of these useful phrases:

“As per our previous email exchange, the agreed deadline was March 10th…”

“In line with our previous arrangement, we were under the impression that the price was $_____.”

5. The "Sorry Sandwich"

Apologize, fix it, and apologize again:

“First let me apologize for … We will be sending you a replacement for your item first thing tomorrow…once again, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience, and hope you’ll find this solution satisfactory.”

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