April 2024

Conflict resolution at home: An untapped source of professional development

Conflict resolution at home: An untapped source of professional development

Whether entering a tense negotiation at work or resolving a disagreement at home, effective communication is crucial for productive problem-solving. Could the way we manage our personal relationships hold the key to professional success?

This philosophy is put into practice at Australian engineering firm Pritchard Francis, where insights from unconventional sources, like marriage research, are fostering a more engaged, productive and happier team.

Renowned psychologists John and Julie Gottman dedicated their careers to studying the dynamics of couples, by focusing on communication patterns that influence relationship success. Through decades of research, they identified four adverse communications styles that emerge during conflict, dubbed ‘The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse’, and have been able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy based on these patterns.

Though their research focuses heavily on couples, the Gottmans’ work delves straight to the core of human connection. This is precisely why Pritchard Francis is pioneering a new approach to team performance, focused on creating a culture in which people can challenge each other in a psychologically safe way and ultimately, foster a deeper level of connection and collaboration.

Pritchard Francis Chief Performance Office, Chris Tyler, presenting ‘Armoured Behaviours’ training.

Chris Tyler, Chief Performance Officer at Pritchard Francis, puts it simply, ‘People are People, regardless of whether we are at work or with our family. Communicating well is a critical skill that applies to both.’

Inspired by the Gottmans' work, Pritchard Francis have just launched their ‘Armoured Behaviours’ approach. This document provides a common language and framework to identify and address harmful communication patterns within the team. The four armoured behaviours Pritchard Francis identified are:

  • Criticising Character (‘You are the problem’)
  • Contempt (‘You are below even being worth my time’)
  • Defensiveness (‘It’s some else’s fault’)
  • Avoidance (‘No-one else seems to be doing anything about it so why should I?’)

This approach empowers individuals to recognise ‘armoured behaviours’ and have open dialogue to address them quickly and constructively, de-escalating ineffective conversations and deciding when it is necessary to productively revisit the discussion at another time.

‘Relationship strengthening skills have a much more profound impact on the overall team’s mental health than an awareness day, or externally provided Employee Assistance Programs. While it is critical you do those things to build visibility and support, the team also needs frameworks to help them thrive,’ says Tyler.

‘The challenge with implementing these strategies is that we all have ingrained habits that are hard to break. But the flipside is that if you do it well, it has a dramatic effect on our performance as a team, while leading to a more fulfilling experience at work. We believe doing these things well is an incredible competitive advantage recognised both in client service and staff attraction and retention.’


This is an abridged version of an article by Pritchard Francis’ communication team.

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Conflict resolution at home: An untapped source of professional development