By: Frank Clark, Executive Coach – Fortune Management

Managing conflict is an essential leadership skill because conflict is an inevitable part of any workplace. For dental practice owners and their teams, it is important to develop conflict management skills to resolve disputes effectively and maintain a positive work environment.

This article highlights a few of the most effective strategies tested in the real world in high stakes situations.

1) Active Listening

Active listening is essential and one of the best strategies to resolve conflicts. This involves both hearing what the other person is saying and understanding their underlying needs, values, emotions, and outcomes.  They need to know that you understand them.

Ask open-ended questions to gather more information, such as “What’s most important to you about this situation?” Probe for more information by saying “Tell me more about that.” Maintain a gentle tone of voice and a positive attitude throughout.

Then summarize and restate their needs so that they feel listened to and understood.  “What I hear you saying is that ‘x’ is important to you, that you no longer want to do ‘y’, and that going forward you expect ‘z’ to take place. Is that what you are saying?” They should then either correct you or confirm that you understood them correctly.

2) Rapport / Mirroring

Mirroring is a great strategy for building rapport and is used by everyone naturally when they are in rapport.  The mirror neurons in our brains are an evolutionary tool that we developed in order to better socialize initially with our families, and later with society.  When someone smiles, we smile back.  When you smile first, you are signaling to the other person to smile back, which triggers the release of positive hormones in the body such as endorphins. Emotions are contagious.

Similarly repeating the other person’s words, and paying attention to and mirroring back visual, auditory, and kinesthetic language can help to develop rapport.  This also demonstrates to the other person that you are listening and understanding them specifically. Mirroring body postures, gestures, and breathing rates are also great ways to create rapport.  The fastest and most effective way to create rapport, is to really want to help the person and make that known by your positive attitude and communications.

3) Quality Questions

Quality questions are open-ended questions designed to gather information, improve emotional states, and move the conversation forward. Dental teams can use quality questions to identify the root cause of conflicts and identify solutions. “How can we make sure you have a great dental visit today and leave here with an amazing smile?” “How can we ensure that you have a comfortable visit with a high-quality standard of care, while also making sure that our treatment is affordable.”

4) Manage Your Own Emotional States

When we get caught up in emotionally charged situations, it is easy to lose our cool and experience negative emotions within ourselves. This can trigger the freeze, fight or flight response, and create stress and adrenaline in our bodies. Remember, emotions are contagious. Learn to keep your emotions in check.

There are many things that we can do to learn to have a better command of our emotions, such as regular exercise, getting enough restful sleep, prayer and/or meditation, and training ourselves to access more resourceful states such as kindness, empathy, compassion, humor and curiosity.

We have all been in a room where things started to get tense, and then someone made a funny comment or a kind comment that helped defuse the situation. Emotional mastery of yourself is an important key to being able to defuse or manage conflict.


Training your team and yourself to be better at managing conflict is an essential leadership skill in dental practices. By employing these strategies and techniques, leaders can help team members find solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Rehearsing verbiage and implementing best practices such as these strategies can improve the patient and team experience, reduce stress, and help you grow your practice.

For more information and strategies, please contact me at or 917-642-8697.

Want to find out about other opportunities in your dental practice? Please reach out to the dental coaches at Fortune Management Northeast to schedule a discovery call.

Schedule a discovery call with a Fortune Coach now!