In a previous post on exercising your power of choice to get conflicts under control, I mentioned some specific actions to consider using to de-escalate conflicts.
In this post, I’m expanding on three of the actions with some additional thoughts on how to put them to work in your conflict resolution repertoire.
Here are three things you can do in virtually any conflict situation to improve the outcome.
I seldom see conflict situations where all of the miscommunication, misunderstanding, or misinterpretation of intentions rests entirely on one person. You might not be totally at fault for the challenge that led to the conflict. Odds are, there is something you contributed to the early stages that helped it to escalate. Whatever that behavior, word choice or tone was, apologize for it.
Don’t apologize for how the other person feels or how they interpreted your actions. You can apologize for the action itself.
Apology is a powerful way to de-escalate conflict. When you apologize, remember that apologizing for your contribution does not mean that you have to take all of the blame. Just own your contribution.
Just as you should apologize for your contribution, be ready to accept their apology or ownership of responsibility. Resist the urge to take advantage of their show of vulnerability. Just forgive graciously.
In practice, you don’t even have to wait for an apology to forgive. You can forgive simply because you chose to do so. (And you can do it without holding it over the other person. Remember the gracious part.)
As a general rule, people feel less angry or frustrated when they feel understood. When you listen without interrupting, correcting, or debating, you can help the other person feel understood. When you help them feel understood, you improve the odds of de-escalating the conflict.
I don’t propose that these actions are necessarily easy to do when emotions are high and the conflict is escalating. While they might not be easy to do, they are possible to do. And they are powerful steps you can consciously apply to help conflicts move towards resolution.