Thursday, February 1, 2007

Common Sense Strategies for Conflict Management

When faced with a conflict there are many effective ways to handle the situation. Some choose to confront it head-on, while others prefer to step back and seek compromise. Different situations call for different techniques, but here is a short list of some simple strategies for de-escalating most conflicts to a point where they are manageable.

  • Watch your tone of voice. It is often not what you say, but how you say it, and just as an aggressive tone of voice can escalate a conflict, a conciliatory one can help to de-escalate.
  • Watch your posture. Avoid a defensive or aggressive body posture. Try to keep your arms uncrossed. Demonstrate that you are listening by looking at the person. If you are talking with a child, get down on their level.
  • Stay calm. Many times, this feels virtually impossible, but try methods for keeping your cool--like counting backwards from five, taking three deep breaths, or just walking away until later.
  • Choose the right time and place. Sometimes waiting until some time has passed and people have cooled down in the best choice. In addition, keep aggressive conflicts away from large groups of people whenever possible.
  • Empathy works. Letting the other person know that you recognize the volatility of the situation indicates that you take their feelings seriously. Even a simple statement like, "I know that you're feeling angry, but..." will often help to diffuse a difficult situation.
  • Focus on yourself. Make as many "I" statements as possible, like "I feel hurt when you talk about me to other people," rather than making assumptions, accusations, or threats like "Don't talk about me behind my back!"
  • Ask questions. "Why?" or "Why do you feel that way?" or "Tell me more."
  • Know your limits. Be aware of what pushes your buttons or what will trigger your anger, and be prepared to handle them. Resist "seeing it through" if it will only make the conflict worse by continuing.

© 2005 Peace Games, Inc. Common Sense Strategies for Conflict Management

Do you have a strategy for Conflict Management that's not on this list? What has been your experience with these methods? What has worked? What have you found challenging? Post your responses on our Network Message Board here.