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5 Steps for Resolving Interpreter Conflicts

5 Steps for Resolving Interpreter Conflicts

Interpreter Tips   |  Monday, May 4, 2015

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

Interpreting is 99% about being able to work with other people - having good soft skills and good people skills. These aren’t something that everyone is blessed with naturally. It is important to take time to work on and improve these skills.

When have you butted heads with a co-worker? What caused it? Notice I didn’t ask who was at fault or who was to blame.  What really caused the conflict? A miscommunication? An age difference? A power difference? Assumptions? How did you resolve the issue? What are some successful strategies?

Here are 5 steps for resolving interpreter conflicts:


  • Take time to cool off.
  • First impressions matter and can affect how people work together.
  • Often times negative interactions are a result of assumptions. 
  • Realize that the issue is coming from incongruent expectations.


  • Try to see the situation from other viewpoints.
  • Explain your point of view and give them the chance to do the same.
  • Using the words “Help me understand…” shows that you value the other person and their opinion.


  • Strive for mutual understanding and respect.
  • Show them respect.
  • Don’t bring others into it.
  • Talk privately.


  • You can say anything - it all depends on how you say it.
  • Don’t just focus on the problems, come up with solutions.
  • The tried and true use of “I” statements really does work.
  • Let them know, but don’t point fingers even if it was their mistake.
  • If you’re wrong, apologize and try to make it right. (Even if you don't think you're wrong, you could say, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings" or "I'm sorry you feel that way.")


  • Learn to let some things go.
  • Move past it and don’t remain bitter.
  • Live and learn. It is all part of growing professionally and personally.

Do you have other tips for resolving interpreter conflicts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

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