Useful conflict deflection techniques
I chose the word deflection for a good reason. Conflict carries a negative connotation, but it is not well deserved. Conflict is usually a good thing. Without it, very little progress would ever be made. So avoiding it altogether is not a good thing. Deflecting – or perhaps even better yet re-directing – it is a very constructive tool making the best out of it for everyone.
Why do we get into conflict mode in the first place? Three very basic things typically happen. For one, we tend to lose focus when we are confronted. We literally stumble over our own thoughts and say words that may further infuriate the other party. Second, in conflict mode our first instincts may be off – very badly off. That is when we can put a totally incorrect frame around words said, or totally misunderstand the situation. Third, you may understand the situation correctly and even say the correct word, but the other party does not understand it that way.
This situation can escalate out of control. Very few times does this end well. So what can you do about this?
- Listen before you say anything. Letting someone vent is one of the most important signals that you can send to a discontent person. Being “heard” is incredible important to all of us. This also let’s you put the conversation into a better context.
- Acknowledge how you may have contributed. Sometimes we were indeed the culprit having led to the problem at hand. Offer thoughts on how you may help resolve the problem.
- Ask questions. When you ask open ended questions you allow the other party to vent more effectively and perhaps even regain a more objective mental distance.
- Buy yourself some time. When the emotions and expletives still just happen to fly high and right by you, it may be time to ask for a reprieve. No one deserves to get yelled at. No one. Ask for permission to reconvene at a different time. Make sure to follow up with your promise to follow up though.
Conflict happens. It is simply something that belongs to being human. Do not fight or avoid it embrace it instead. Conflict deflection works best as it tries to reach a mutual understanding and appreciation for the situation at hand through getting a more objective distance rather than only depending on our instinct. Happy pondering.