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How to Diffuse Conflict

by Chris Newton

Conflict is something all people have to deal with at some point. Everyone cannot be in agreement at all times, and learning how to deal with differences in opinion can help prevent or diffuse conflict. While some conflict is healthy and productive, other forms of conflict or disagreements can quickly lead to escalated voices, name calling or other forms of abuse. Conflict can occur at home, work or within relationships. You might experience conflict with a co-worker, family member, friend or stranger. Self-awareness and control are key to resolving conflict.

Identify the root of the conflict. Learning to recognize hostile behavior and unhealthy communication is the key to stopping conflict before it escalates. If someone is upset, confront them in a mature manner. Be respectful and simply ask if there's something wrong, or if there is anything you can do to help. Consider guiding the person to another room or location to calm them down privately.

Communicate positively and properly. Speak to the person with whom there is conflict using "I" statements, and do not make unnecessary accusatory remarks that will only add more fuel to the fire. Avoid using "you" while trying to express personal feelings. For example, do not say, "You are disrespectful." Instead, say, "I feel disrespected."

Compromise when you can. Look to see what the conflict is hindering. Practice "give and take" in all relationships, making sure to show empathy and listen to the other people's points of view. Ask, how important is the conflict? How important is the relationship? Is the conflict worth risking your relationship with the other person, or can you live with a compromise?

Find a solution. Once both parties have acknowledged the conflict, they should work together to resolve it. The key to diffusing conflict is to address it quickly and effectively. The faster a conflict is diffused, the faster the parties can work on a win-win resolution. If you let the conflict fester, your emotions will begin to outweigh your rationale.

Tips

  • If the conflict has escalated to yelling and name calling, do not yell back, and calmly let the other person know that it would be better to address the issue when everyone is more calm and collected.
  • If the conflict cannot be resolved, ask a third party to moderate the discussion and help guide both parties toward a compromise.
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated. Unless the other party is causing you harm, it is wise to address the problem face to face and not make a bad situation worse.

Warnings

  • If there is fear that the conflict is beginning to get physical, or if it has already become physically abusive, take yourself out of the immediate environment. It is OK to defend yourself, but only for as long as it takes to escape. Find a safe place with people that can provide help. Notify the authorities of any abuse.
  • Remove anyone from your life who is consistently abusive verbally, emotionally or physically.

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