How to Handle Breakdowns & Conflict In Your Closest Relationships Like a Boss

coaching leadership team culture Apr 10, 2023

Consider this article an operational guide to having tough conversations.

Conflict Reframe: Conflict and friction is a guaranteed byproduct of pursuing growth and greatness in any arena. While working through breakdowns doesn’t get easier, we do get more practiced.

In my experience, most people working through how to bring a conflict to someone else do not need a script. They already know what they need to say, they just need support on how to deliver it in a way that is meaningful and in integrity. When we use a script, it puts a divide in our relationship and says, “I don’t trust myself or trust you without trying to control your reaction”.

Instead, I encourage people to be aware of the flow of conversation below and focus on two parts:

  •  A. The entry point: just your opening line… that’s it.
  •  B. Knowing what is authentic to you

Without further ado… let’s get into it.

Conflict Conversational Framework

  1. Acknowledge the breakdown
  2. State your commitment
  3. Paint the vision/experience of how you want it to go
  4. Invite collaboration on the form/make a request
  5. Find alignment


1.) Acknowledge the Breakdown

This is where you bravely and authentically speak to what is actually in the space between both of you.

Pulling punches and beating around the bush only perpetuates the core problem.

There is no ‘comfortable getting uncomfortable’ (it doesn’t exist). There’s only discomfort. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Just get uncomfortable. Just say the thing.  

A couple of entry points I LOVE…

  •  "Hey, I want to talk to you about something that's tough for me"
  •  "I notice I [insert feeling, sensation, or physical experience]… and I imagine that [insert the interpretation or story you’re making up]…"
    •  Thank you to Susan Campbell and her book Getting Real for that one.


2.) State your Commitment

This is a big one because we all have different types of relationship attachment styles. By stating our commitment - whatever it may be - we create a shared sense of security for how we’ll show up in conflict.

In other words, the other person knows we’re not just going to leave them stranded after we say what we need to say.

Note here that we are NOT committing to a specific outcome. Example outcomes:

  •  I am NOT committed to… Staying in the relationship
  •  I am NOT committed to… Guaranteeing a perfectly happy partnership
  •  I am NOT committed to… Keeping or holding a position or title

Instead, commit to how you will BE in the process of conflict. Something like the following:

  •  I AM committed to… Demonstrating LOVE in our relationship
  •  I AM committed to… Being JOY the world
  •  I AM committed to… Honoring and respecting our relationship


3.) Paint the vision/experience of how you want it to go

This one is simple because you’ve likely already thought about the perfect utopia of how your relationship could exist.

Just talk about it… with them. Instead of in your head.

What we’re doing here is painting a reality that doesn’t yet exist. Talk about what you want to feel, share, or experience together in an ideal state.


4.) Invite collaboration on the form aka make a request

First of all - when you get to this point, just pause.

For like 5 long seconds, you’ve got permission to chill and let them process.

We want to invite the person into the vision that we just painted. Ask them what that vision would be like for them. Ask what they would need to get excited about sharing that vision with you. Get curious.

Sometimes, this requires us to make an explicit request for exactly what we need in the relationship.

Here are a couple of examples of asking for what you need:

  •  “Can you be more intentional about physical touch moving forward? It’s something that is really important to me.”
  •  “I need some space to think and process. Are you open to hitting pause on this for the next few days and picking it up next week?”
  •  “It is important for me that we begin on time. Can you align with that?”
  •  “I want our team to achieve this outcome. I think you can play a big role AND we need X behavior from you. Are you open to it?”


5.) Find alignment

 Don’t bypass this. It’s important.

It’s likely the assumption that ‘we’re on the same page’ that got you in this mess in the first place.

Check-in. Make sure that you’re on the same page. Ensure that what’s needed to be said has been said.

Then hit GO. Together. 


Example Transcript

The whole thing might sound something like this:

 “Hey man, I wanted to talk to you about something that’s been on my mind for a little while now. I noticed that I’ve been holding a lot back a lot with the fear that I may get judged if I share things that might be a bit more intimate or vulnerable. I think it’s a combination of how we’ve interacted in the past, and my own inflation of certain situations. (#1 breakdown is acknowledged)”

You’re important to me, our relationship is important to me and I’m committed to our friendship (#2 state the commitment).

I want us to have an open relationship that allows us to communicate about anything and everything. I’m excited about how quickly we’ve become friends/colleagues/partners/etc. and see us continuing to get closer in the future without the walls of having to be up. (#3 paint the vision)

How does that sound for you? I’d love to get your thoughts. (#4 paint the vision).”


Pause and chill. Let them talk.


“Thanks for sharing. I’ve got one ask - when we get into those deep talks, would you be open to hearing my whole point before adding in your thoughts and opinions? I love what you have to share and don’t always get to add the details and context that I want to before you inject. (#4 make the ask).”

I’m glad we’re on the same page. Thanks for being open to this conversation. Is there anything else that you’d like add? (#5 get alignment).”



I love conflicts (especially if they’re not mine 🤗). They’re an opportunity to build stronger relationships. And like everything, there’s no guarantee of any result when we engage with others around tough subjects. However, we typically get peace of mind as we step back into alignment with our intentions, words, and actions.

Muscles break down during workouts on their way to rebuilding stronger.

Stress turns coal into diamonds. 

And conflicts hold the potential to strengthen your relationship. You get to test if your people are really in it with you.

Happy breakdowns yall,

Coach Seb


PS - also save this post cuz it was good and you might need it later 😇

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