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04 May '11

De escalating Conflict

Posted by T.J. Addington in conflict, emotional intelligence (EQ)
Conflicts are easy to get into and harder to get out of. Often they result from a misunderstanding between parties where there is either poor communication or the message is misunderstood. However it happens, when conflict occurs we have three choices: escalate the conflict, allow it to simmer or seek to de escalate.

Usually conflict escalates when we respond out of emotion. All of us have done this. Think about conflict you have had with your spouse and how easy it is to take a shot back when something was said we didn't like and the conflict escalates. Often, it was not even the intention of the other party to create conflict but in our misreading of their intent we responded out of emotion and actually created the conflict. The use of Email has created many misunderstandings because messages are cryptic, dialogue is difficult and one does not hear the tone behind the message.


Here are some ways to de escalate conflict.
First, wait to respond until you have processed your emotion so that you are not responding out of emotion. Remind yourself that what you "heard" may not be what was "intended." If the message from the other came out of their emotion or anxiety, responding with you emotion or anxiety will only escalate the issue. You want your response to be matter of fact, conciliatory and without emotion or anxiety and that often takes some time to process. Until our emotion and anxiety levels are low, our response is likely to escalate rather than de escalate.

Second, rather than assuming the intending message was meant the way it came across, personally (in person, by phone or Internet) clarify the intended message. Questions like, "This is how your message came across to me. Is that what you intended?" can help clarify and will often create the very dialogue needed to come to understanding. 


Third, if there is a significant difference in thinking, work to "normalize" the relationship by acknowledging the difference but keeping the door open for dialogue and not allowing the conflict to destroy the relationship. Once relationships go south it is much harder to resolve the conflict because one then has to solve the relational issue before one can tackle the issue that created the conflict. When we can separate the conflict from the relationship there is a much better chance of resolution.


Fourth, don't allow others to hook you into emotional responses. They may remain emotional but you want to remain as calm and collected as possible. When emotions, anger and anxiety drive the process all kinds of collateral damage takes place. Even if you feel the emotion internally, try not to allow it to express itself in your body language or words.

De escalating  conflict is an art and those who work at it find that they avoid all kinds of unpleasantness, become peacemakers, broker understanding and create healthy workplaces, homes and relationships.