5 Tips to Quickly Defuse a Conflict
We've all been in the position where conflict strikes and we want out NOW! Especially if the other person is particularly high conflict - more about dealing with high conflict individuals later. For now, here are 5 tips to quickly defuse a conflict:
1. Deal with it immediately.
I know that you want to run away most likely, and avoidance may seem like the best option. However, most conflicts left unresolved simply pile up together to make an even bigger problem later. It is best to deal with it when it happens.
Dealing with conflicts immediately can also help to build expectations and boundaries in a relationship, making it a stronger relationship in the long run. If both people know that conflicts are dealt with immediately they will know that they are safe to approach the other with a problem and there won't be any silent pondering if the other person is mad at them or not.
2. Listen to understand.
This sounds much easier than it is in practice. In order to truly listen to understand we need to quiet our minds, not plan out our next rebuttal, and truly try to view the issue from their perspective. When one person feels heard and understood, they are much more likely to attempt to understand the other person as well.
3. Acknowledge their feelings.
Another tough one! Acknowledging how someone is feeling does not mean that you agree with their position. However, it can help them to engage in a productive conversation.
4. Look for the source of the conflict.
More often than not people are not forthright with the real reason they are upset. They may not know it themselves right away. If you are able to listen to their position, identify and acknowledge their feelings, and ask open-ended questions you may be able to get to the root cause of the issue. It could be a comment you made that was not intended to be offensive, however your coworker is complaining about something you did on a project you did together. Search for the clues in their explanations and dig deeper, ie. "tell me more about what you meant by 'you're always so inconsiderate'" You may just be able to resolve a relational issue and create a better working environment, instead of finding a band aid solution.
5. Request their solutions first.
When you ask to hear what their ideal outcome would be or what they would like to see done to resolve the issue and you consider it, the other person can truly feel valued in the conversation. Also, then you have a starting point from where to find the ideal solution, if theirs isn't quite it. Usually, this ends up being a good brain-storming session. If done well it can start to set new patterns for an improved relationship.
Using these steps not only defuses a conflict quite easily, but it give the opportunity to use conflict as a catalyst to change and improve the relationship.