5 tips for handling conflict in general practice

We’ve all received that text message from a loved one and thought, “Wow, that was a bit short! And only one x?” or heard a story about someone we thought we knew kick-off and said, “Ooh, that’s not like her!”

In both cases, it’s fair to say we can’t always know what someone else is dealing with, creating their internal conflict.

I like to describe our internal conflict as a bag; sometimes, it’s got more in it than others. When our ‘bag is weighing too heavy’, it influences how we communicate and interpret incoming communication.

This goes for everyone else we encounter. Making conflict a normal part of everyday life. At home, with friends and at work.

When conflict occurs at whatever level – from subtle to extreme – it’s an indication that something needs to be addressed or acknowledged.

  • We must accept that not everything can be resolved.
  • Not everyone has the same expectations. And sometimes we will have to agree to disagree, compromise or negotiate a win-win.

Accept that we all have our own unique set of life pressures, values and deadlines to work towards.

Ignore conflict and it can only lead to more feelings of resentment and mistrust. It can cause both ours and others’ bags to ‘swell’.

What else can you try?

  • Know what’s ‘normal for you’ – be aware of what we have in our own bag and understand what we’ve got going on personally. This helps us acknowledge and appreciate that we can’t be superhuman.
  • Accept that conflict is normal – it’s our way of letting others know that something needs to change or be accepted. Either way, be aware of behaviour changes – all behaviour has meaning.
  • Not all acts of conflict are personal and about you – we all have our own bags; sometimes people are overwhelmed and cross or frustrated with their own situation or the system they’re dealing with,
  • Use the tools you have available to you – if there is an opportunity to discuss an issue of conflict face to face, choose this option. Not only can you read a lot about ‘where a person is at’ by seeing someone’s body language but you can use yours to communicate better.
  • Start small. Grow big – it’s not always easy to disagree with someone to resolve conflict. Sometimes we avoid dealing with conflict in the hope it’ll just go away. It won’t! Deal with something small that’s bothering you, or just one thing someone else is presenting you with. Break down the issue of conflict into ‘bite size’ chunks.

And finally remember:

None of us can resolve everything every time
We can’t always present with angel wings and halo’s
Give yourselves and others a break!!!


Maria Thompson is a care navigation trainer at Conexus Healthcare. Whether you’re brand new or part of the fixtures and fittings, handling conflict takes practice, patience and a big dollop of self-compassion to do it well. Contact the team at Conexus if you need a hand developing these vital skills.

About Conexus

Conexus is a confederation of GP practices in the Wakefield District. By connecting together, we are stronger, more resilient and can care effectively for over 386,000 local people.

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