The Art of Professional Pushback: Navigating healthy conflict


Lauren Miller

Conflicts are a normal part of any workplace. Although it can be daunting to those who are conflict averse, there are ways to navigate confrontation that allow you to build confidence and get more comfortable speaking up.

In our panel discussion “The Art of Professional Pushback: Navigating healthy conflict" our panelists, Aileen Lu (GitLab), Kait Jack (, and Katie Capuzzo (WISE), discussed ways to handle disagreements professionally and to move forward with next steps.

Here are some key takeaways to guide you in your professional journey.

Better, better, never best.

Like most things, it takes practice to get comfortable sharing your opinion. Seek out environments that allow you to push back with low stakes, ask your manager to back up your idea in a team meeting or use a non-verbal tool like the Zoom chat, while you’re building confidence. A helpful pep talk? “Be brave for 30 seconds.” Though that feels like a long time when you’re holding a plank, it’s a short but effective time frame to practice relaying your view point.

Navigating healthy conflict.

Set the tone and maintain it in the conversation, while still allowing room to empathize with the recipient's point of view. Speaking of POV, do you know theirs? It is imperative that you understand the why and intention behind the counter argument - try repeating their stance back to them to ensure your understanding. Oftentimes, there’s more common ground than we think, but the messaging is misaligned. The more reps, the more you’ll learn about your audience and know when they’re holding a strong opinion loosely and vice versa.

On the receiving end.

If you’re on the receiving end of a disagreement, know that 99% of the time, it’s not personal. It can feel that way, especially when you’ve clocked many hours towards a specific project that’s now in question, but it’s important to separate your value from the disagreement.

You may be the only.

In sales, it’s not uncommon to be the only woman in the room from early career onward. It’s important to know your values and non-negotiables so that you have a compass to guide you in these situations. Remember, you’re worthy of being there and being heard. All screens are created equal over Zoom!

The advice to choose your battles wisely still has its time and place. However, we shouldn’t withhold our point of view just because it differs from our co-worker or manager. Healthy conflict encourages diverse perspectives and supports a culture of speaking up, which ultimately pushes the organization forward.

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Want to learn more? You can stream the full event recording here.Thank you to all of the WISE partners for making this event possible and our panelists for sharing their time and advice.