5 steps to win arguments and avoid conflict using PR

As we read in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways.” Right?


An adult who doesn’t reason “like a child” is a refreshing abnormality in today’s entitled culture. Adults are actually just giant children who complain and belittle each other instead of screaming and crying to their mommy. Case in point:


Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. (Source: Giphy.com)


Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. (Source: Giphy.com)


Potential leaders of the free world, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, duking it out like 4th graders on national television (Source: Giphy.com)

However, in defense of politicians, we’ve all been in situations of potential contention. Your roommates keep taking your parking spot. Or when you and your spouse can’t agree on what to have for dinner.

Life with people is hard, I get it. But there is a way to smooth out these testy disputes without losing friends and getting fired: public relations.

Dr. Kenneth Plowman, a public relations professor at Brigham Young University who specializes in conflict resolution in PR, referred to PR professionals as “the grand compromisers” and stressed the importance of their role in “organizing publics and finding common ground.”

But this expertise in conflict resolution shouldn’t be limited to the office. Effective negotiation skills can help you solve everyday problems. Dr. Plowman added that, “if they don’t, you’re missing out.”

Next time you can sense an argument or conflict arising, try these helpful tips I’ve learned as a PR student:

Know what you want

When going into a compromise with someone — whether you’re trying smooth out a dispute between two companies or you want your boss to give you a raise — it’s important to know where you stand.

If there is one thing I have learned in my public relations classes, is that I need to be prepared with a plan. I like to figure out my plans by first asking a few important questions. What actually matters to me? What terms am I okay with? These types of questions will help you clarify your plan and be prepared to face conflict.

It’s also important to remember that your goal is to get what you want, not to say what you want. Stay levelheaded at all costs and don’t let your emotions (or theirs) get in the way of a solution. Be objective and approach every conflict as an opportunity to creatively solve a problem.

Know what they want

Just like you should know what you actually want, you need to know what they really want. The most valuable piece of information you can have in a disagreement (professional or personal) is your public’s self-interests.

Let’s explore an example from public relations. After the Chipotle E. coli breakouts in 2015, the company decided to close all their stores for a company wide food safety training. For one hour, one day Chipotle closed its doors. However, Chipotle knew that it would have a lot of hangry customers on its hands. So, the company devised a plan to give the people what they wanted: burritos. According to the Chipotle website, on February 8, 2016 customers could text in the word “RAINCHECK” to receive a coupon for a free burrito at a later time.

Figure out what your opposer’s currency is. Maybe it’s burritos, maybe it’s time, or maybe it’s something else. Be understanding, objective and direct.

Be kind, rewind (listen and clarify)

In my PR classes I have learned that the knowledge of someone’s self-interests is the easiest way to solving their problems and moving them to action. But, not only is fulfilling self-interests of others in a way that also benefits you the key to successful public relations, it’s the key to success itself.

The best way to find out someone’s self-interests is to do your research. In an everyday sense, this could be just listening to what they’re saying and asking clarifying questions. Knowing what they really want gives you a head start to finding a solution. The sooner they get what they want, the sooner you get what you want.

Vocalization and vulnerability

It is equally important for your opposer to know what you want. Be vulnerable and be honest. In the public relations world we call this transparency. Typically, if a company messes up, the more honest and transparent it is to its publics the better it fares.

Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” said that one of the fatal dysfunctions of team building is a lack of trust. He defines this as when “team members are uncomfortable being vulnerable with one another, unwilling to admit their weaknesses, mistakes or needs for help.”

By putting up barriers to your true feelings, you’re building a wall between you and your opposer. Walls are only for those looking to further mask a problem (looking at you, Donald). Our goal is to break those walls down and work it out.

Find a win/win/win

The ultimate goal here is to find a solution that is mutually beneficial. PR focused negotiation can be extremely helpful in resolving conflict between two parties because it focuses on building mutually beneficial relationships. To put it short, you get what you want by giving them what they want. Win-win.

Choose your battles, don’t waste time and energy arguing about non-issues. Life’s too short to fight and bicker like children (Donald). But when you do have an issue that needs some attention, use these helpful tips to PR your way through any negotiation.



My name is Kayla Ellis, I’m a Senior studying PR at BYU. I’m currently the Marketing Assistant for BYU Career Services where I work with the Events Coordinator to initiate and carry out projects and campaigns for the office. Working here has given me a real passion for professional development and business casual attire. I hope to intern in Seattle next summer before starting my full-time employment. I seek to influence people, help people, and create things in all of my personal and professional endeavors. Eventually I can see myself owning a non-profit or business along those lines. I could also see myself as “The New Oprah.” Outside of my scholastic and professional life I like to rock climb (but only inside) and to read (mostly self-help, Harry Potter, and C.S. Lewis). However, my main hobby is eating and I have a food blog to prove it.

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