Sorry, Not Sorry – Conflict Is Not Resolved When You Forgive And Forget
April 10, 2018

Sorry, Not Sorry – Conflict Is Not Resolved When You Forgive And Forget

In response to an apology, I once heard a business colleague say to his employee, “I appreciate the apology, but I’d rather hear you acknowledge the behavior and never doing it again!” He is right! The goal of conflict isn’t to remedy the hurt feelings – it’s to prevent the pain from recurring again and again.

In my business coaching practice I see conflict among teams wreaking havoc on the productivity and efficiency of the company.

Conflict occurs at work, and too often, we jump on the moral high road, avoiding the temptation to be petty or snap at our colleagues (and sometimes we don’t). It’s not so simple, though, burying those feelings.

The impulse to be snappy is a signal about conflict with another person. It’s not right to react snarky or rude, but it’s also not right to ignore by “taking the high road.”

There is a time to take the high road: when someone’s behavior or actions can’t be changed and reacting in kind would cause you to veer from your own moral compass, then it’s time to let them be and get on the high road. Stay true to yourself; it’s beyond your control.

However, things within your control do require action. It’s complicated because we are trained from an early age to handle conflict by forgiving and forgetting as a way to cope, but really, do we ever forget someone who has harmed us?

I know I don’t!

The good news: there is a path through the conflict, and it involves open, honest communication and the steps that follow from there.  The idea is not to forgive and forget, but to remember and work through the feelings to create long term change.

To truly and effectively handle conflict, we need to manage the emotions and make a call for change. To do this:


Get the problem into the open. This is the step that requires a level of bravery and working through discomfort. It’s not easy to be open about our feelings, particularly at work. Talking about our emotions at work leaves us vulnerable and removes some of the boundaries we typically preserve – but it’s necessary for things to change.


Process the feelings. A process is a series of steps, and this is the stage where we reveal the problem and related emotions: Forgive to stop the conflict and release yourself from the angry emotions, Resolve to move on and go forward, Remember what happened so you can prevent the problem from recurring or recognize its return, Repair relationships by choosing behaviors that offer positive outcomes, and Resolve to behave differently and living in the consequences.


Stay brave and talk about issues that create emotional responses – slights, behaviors, habits, actions of the team that affect you. Also, stay brave should someone consider your behaviors or actions as harmful. Continue to process the feelings and move on.

The right response, then, to your instinct to be snappy toward your colleague is to call out the behavior eliciting your reaction and be honest. If you can do this in an open, heathy manner, you’ll be able to eliminate workplace conflict before it ever has a chance to get out of control!

In business, teams that can work together and stand bravely through the conflict to process the emotions emerge stronger, more productive, and frankly, healthier.

If you find your team is struggling with conflict – bringing in an outside party to mediate – can be life changing for the team and the business. This is where a business coach can really help. Not only open the lines of communication but teach all members better, more effective ways of dealing with conflict.

If you’d like further information, schedule a 30 minute Discovery Call Here.



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