Just in case you would like to have some fun with another person in your next disagreement, here are some tips for quickly escalating a minor miscommunication to a full-blown conflict.
1) Tell them what they're feeling
When you want to get a strong emotional response from somone, just tell them what they are feeling. For example, you could say “don't get angry with me.” This comment is just about guaranteed to get an angry response even if they were not already angry.
You might also try something like this, “why are you so defensive?” I love that one. It almost always puts the other person on the defensive so that their emotions elevate to the point that we can really get into a good argument.
2) Tell them why they did what they did (or said what they said)
This is a sure fire way to get under someone's skin and escalate a conflict. When you tell another person their motivation for their words and actions, you can easily spin them up. Little comments like “you just said that because you're jealous” or “you did that because you want to get even with me” are great for making a conflict worse.
If you're determined to fan their emotional flames, mix in some amateur psychoanalysis. You could say something like “you are so OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)” or “you must have relationship issues or something.”
3) Raise your voice
If you're ready for a good knock-down-drag-out confrontation, raise your voice. This technique is great for getting their emotional juices flowing. Add a little finger-pointing and leaning forward to the recipe, and you just might push them over the edge. It's great fun!
4) Focus on the past
As you start to get into a good conflict, focus on something that they have no power to change: the past. Refuse to discuss actions for future behaviors or ways of interacting. Insist that they deconstruct and defend their past words and actions.
You don't have to look too far in the past for this technique to be effective. You can work with what they just said. If you push hard, you can spend a good 10 or 15 minutes telling them:
- What they were feeling when they said it
- Why they said it, and
- What they should have said or felt instead.
Since they cannot change what has already happened, you can lock them into a conflict with no way out.
Raise your voice while you focus on the past, and you can have even more fun with them.
5) Walk away
Just as you get the other person really frustrated and upset, turn and walk away.
If you add some sort of sarcastic comment like “you're always so difficult” or “I'm not going to talk with you about this anymore,” you can plant the seeds of a conflict that goes on for days. This is a fantastic tactic for keeping the conflict ball in the air for an extended period of time.
Hopefully, you see the tongue-in-cheek message in this post. I don't actually advocate any of these behaviors, and I work every day to keep them out of my communication practices. However, I am human, and sometimes one or two of them will creep in on me.
Take a look at yourself. Do any of these behaviors ever show up in your conflict communication style?
If you want to learn the skills of effective workplace conflict resolution, I suggest that you work to do just the opposite of these five conflict escalation practices.
Photo by jsaneb on flickr.