Talk it Out

Many disputes and conflicts can be self-resolved when people have a simple process and some good communication skills to draw on.

The Talk it Out process is the first step in informal issue resolution, the stage in most organisations’ grievance procedures that ask affected staff to ‘talk directly to the person concerned’. Talk it Out supplies a process and skills to support people to engage in a conversation that allows a shared understanding and a co-generated solution to the issues.

How to ‘Talk it Out’


Personal reflection:
Clarify the issue
Clarify the issue by reflecting on what it is that has upset you and why it has affected you in this way. Write it down or talk it through with someone—it helps to see things in perspective. Try to describe what happened as clearly as possible. Stick to the behaviours that occurred.


Take some time
(not too much)
Time (eg a few hours to a couple of days) lets the emotions ease a little and allows you to consider a difficult situation more calmly.

Choose a meeting place
Think about where you could meet: somewhere away from distractions such as noise and other people. Make it ‘neutral territory’ if possible.

Ask the person to meet with you via an email, phone call, or in person eg ‘I’d like to talk about what happened at our meeting last week’...


Shared understanding
To increase understanding before reaching an effective agreement it is important to use clear language that describes and explains, rather than blames.

My understanding
Describe specifically: (i) what happened; and (ii) how it affected you. For example, ‘I saw...; I was told...; I said... ; I felt...; I was thinking...’

Your understanding
Then ask how they saw the situation and how it affected them eg: ‘What is your understanding of what happened? How do you feel about it? What were you thinking at the time?’ Continue to explore the situation together until you have reached a shared understanding of the issues that need to be addressed.

Our understanding
Check out your understanding by summarising what you have heard. ‘These are the issues that need to be addressed...’



  • Identify options together for dealing with each issue.
  • Decide together who needs to do what, how and by when.
  • If you need support to follow through with this agreement or you need to inform anyone, decide together on the most appropriate course of action.