14 Tips for Diffusing Conflict

May 2017

… beats resolution every time. Spot the first signs of escalation and ask if you can nip it in the bud.

As conflict escalates it follows an arc. Body language shows you where you are on the trajectory from irritation to annoyance, then anger, then aggression.

Resolution starts with your choice to engage positively, rather than playing a part in escalation. Tactical withdrawal may be part of your strategic approach.

As soon as you start to see the issue from the other person’s perspective, you begin to defuse the conflict.

When the other person makes the choice to engage positively, they are showing courage. Let them know you recognise and value this.

You need to understand each other’s perceptions. So openly share facts, definitions, feelings, points of view, and concerns.

Listen more than you speak. Great leaders seek to gather and use other people’s ideas.

We need to know that people hear and respect our frustration, anger, grief… Great leaders listen hardest when the message is toughest.

Look for common ground from which you can build a foundation of trust together. You can only build agreement from ‘yes’.

When you are wrong (and you will be), admit it, say sorry, and move on. If you want to defuse conflict, you need to place progress before pride.

The first thing to agree is the criteria for a resolution. What are your respective requirements for an acceptable conclusion?

Stay flexible in how you resolve your conflict. Take ideas from wherever they come. Great leaders specialise in integrating their ideas with many others.

Keep your respect for the person separate from your feelings about the issue. Behaviour is not substance, so also separate this from the person underneath.

Be generous and give away credit for any progress. Great leaders know that this is how history works.