Resolve Conflicts Between Business Partners by Understanding Behavioral Styles

Even with strong business partnerships, conflicts occur. How you handle them is a choice. 

If we do not follow the Platinum Rule, which is treating others the way they want to be treated, lingering resentment and reduced trust can happen between partners.

Relationships can become even more complicated if you are married, related, or living together.

You can actually increase trust and deepen relationships by using behavioral styles when working to resolve a disagreement.

When we understand the pace, style of directness, and language that a person is wired to use, it is much easier to deal with conflict by adapting to their style. The real danger is misunderstanding them. By assuming that they are wired the same as us, we will often make a bad situation far worse and may even end a relationship with drama and hard feelings.

In any conflict, there is already stress on both sides, and more stress results from confrontation. When stressed, people will more readily revert to their natural behavioral style and work against other styles.

So how can we do better? If you know the style of the person you need to confront, then I suggest preparing ahead with what you will say. Consider the pace you will use, and the words you might say in order to make them as comfortable as possible. They will then be more amenable to seeing your position and solutions can be achieved.

Remember, each behavioral style has a different set of strengths, areas to improve, and motivations. If you aren’t sure of the style, start with their pace, which will either be direct (faster) or indirect (more moderate.) With direct people, be direct and avoid getting bogged down in detail. For indirect people who need more space, give them time to think and respond.

If you know their specific style, then you will know how to adapt more fully.

Here’s some suggestions on how to work with each behavioral style, which altogether is known as DISC.


People who are high in Dominance are fine with confrontation and they do not fear difficult conversations. They greatly prefer bringing conflicts out into the open and you will do better to avoid waiting too long to address a conflict. They will be blunt and to-the-point.

Task-oriented and fast-moving when focused, Dominant people sometimes come across as intimidating.  This is just directness. It is also very, very important that you avoid using the word “wrong.” While direct, they also like to look good and they go to some lengths to avoid exposing their flaws. Using the “W” word hits too close to home and it will shut down any chance of resolution in that conversation.

Here is how I would address this problem with a Dominant person. This is best done with strong eye contact and without hesitation. For those of us who are indirect, practice in front of a mirror.

Avoid accusations or fluff. I direct them to the problem itself. One great thing about Dominant and conflict is that they don’t hold grudges. If there is a mistake, acknowledge it, fix it, and move on.


People who are high in Influence want to be liked. A feeling of rejection is intolerable to them, so it’s important to get to the root of a conflict rather than cut them off. Start with a positive approach. 

Share a sincere compliment, tell anecdotes, remain friendly, and even use humor. You’ll step up the pace and use some eye contact (softer, but still direct). Most of all, smile!

Use uplifting words and focus on the positive. There’s no need for excuses or common ground here. Be direct with a smile and offer to follow-up. That makes it easier for them. 


People high in Steadiness value harmony and peacemaking. They are usually tuned into a conflict, or quickly become tuned in. They will want to quickly find common ground, so start with an agreement, especially around their personal values (such as family, or community). 

Avoid confronting them directly, and definitely avoid accusations. They will keep the peace by agreeing with you, and then avoid taking further action because it’s not right for them.

Slow your pace, a warm smile is ok, and avoid staring, especially if you are high in Dominance. Looking away every few seconds will lessen any feeling of intimidation.

Start with what affects people, not the business tasks. Offer  to not take a lot of time in your discussion. Steadiers value time, but they also value choice. 

I find a common ground by suggesting that maybe there was a miscommunication. I give them an opt-out, no hard feelings, and then offer to provide further detail if they want to continue. 

One thing I might do is provide some personal information because they are more likely to initially connect on the personal than on business.


A failed task is uncommon for someone who is high in Conscientious. In the unlikely chance that you have a conflict with them, they will also be the hardest style with which to come to a resolution. 

Avoid any criticism of someone high in Conscientious. It’s an attack on their knowledge and their preparedness, which is really an attack on how they are wired. It is like calling someone high in Dominance, “wrong”.

Start with acknowledgment, focus on problems not in their control, and make it clear that the problem is a variable to be corrected. In other words, make the problem its own thing to be resolved.

Focus on miscommunication, technology, or a system that broke down. By taking this tack, we can then improve the process so it doesn’t happen again. 

If the conflict is related to late tasks, then it might be a problem of their tendency toward perfectionism. In that case, avoid accusation, and instead acknowledge their effort and ability and offer to accept close-to-perfect.

Mastering Communications Styles

Discover your behavioral style and the style of your business partners to improve communication, understanding, and your relationship with each other.

Would you like to get better at motivating others, resolving conflicts, and deepen your business relationships with ease? Schedule a complimentary discovery session with me.

businessman and businesswoman talking

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