8 Tips for De-Escalating Conflict

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At some point in your college career, you will be engaged in some form of conflict. Whether it's a college roommate situation, working with a team for one of your class projects, working with others doing community service, participating in an internship, or working a part-time job. Conflict is one of those things that often just happens and if you find yourself unprepared to deal with it, it can pose some serious consequences.

Here are eight tips for de-escalating conflict:

Don’t Avoid Conflict

Since conflict is sometimes unavoidable, trying to avoid it when it already exists can result in serious consequences. Keeping things to yourself when a problem arises will not only make you anxious but offers little chance of finding a solution. By speaking up and communicating about the cause of your stress, you are opening up the lines of communication which then open the door for negotiation. If problems are left to simmer—rather than addressing them in a calm and respectful manner—they can easily escalate into heated arguments which may cause irreparable damage to an otherwise salvageable relationship.

Avoid Being Defensive

Being defensive is a tactic that does not lead to a positive outcome when dealing with conflict. Rather than listening to the other person’s point of view and understanding their complaint, many people innately respond by defending themselves. They fail to consider that there may be a middle ground. Defensiveness can be problematic because instead of the other person feeling as if they’re being heard, they walk away feeling discounted and have an overall sense that the other person is not willing to work together in order to iron things out.

Avoid Overgeneralizations

Overgeneralizing often adds fuel to the fire. Statements like “you always” and “you never” are usually met with defensiveness and in most cases, they just aren’t totally true.

Work to See Both Sides

Often there is no right way or wrong way of doing things. The ability to see both sides of the situation can take the steam out of any argument. In the situation of college roommates, you have two people who may come from very different backgrounds who are trying to live in one very small room together. One student may prefer to study with the music on while the other requires an early bedtime and resents the fact that they do not have a quiet space in which to retire. This is a situation where conflict resolution can be helpful by having two people work to find a way that will meet both of their needs. For example, perhaps the student who is playing music can use headphones so they don't disturb the other roommate.

Avoid Playing the Blame Game

Resolving conflict is a great opportunity to help improve a situation and ultimately offers a way to create healthy relationships. When you are in the heat of the moment and experiencing conflict, don't express that nothing is your fault. By not taking responsibility for your part of the problem, you are not being resourceful in finding ways to improve the situation and mend the relationship.

Avoid the Need to Be Right

If you think you have to win every argument or discussion, you are losing the chance to develop a stronger and more honest relationship. Of course, no one likes the feeling that they’re accused of being wrong; even if they are wrong. However, the need to be right all the time usually stems from a lack of self-confidence. If you find yourself in a discussion of "I’m right" and "you’re wrong," try to see the humor in the situation which goes far to de-escalate any conflict.

Don't Attack Someone's Character

Lobbing a character attack is one of the quickest ways to destroy a relationship. Declaring that another person is lazy, inconsiderate or dishonest will only lead to hurt feelings and perhaps retaliation with no chance of improving the situation.

Don't Stonewall

By stonewalling and not listening or taking the other person’s complaints seriously, you will likely create a feeling of frustration in the other person. No one likes to feel as though they're not being listened to. By ignoring them and what they have to say, you are saying that you do not care about their opinion and that you do not respect the relationship.