Save the Drama: How To Diffuse an Escalating Situation with Grace

Conflicts are a part of life. Nothing can be smooth sailing all the time. If everyone had the same ideas, beliefs, and goals, and agreed all the time, what would be the fun in that? Our differences make us stronger as a group and a lot more interesting.

And yet, sometimes our differences can create division. Maybe a regular conversation goes off the rails and turns into a heated argument. Maybe a slight misunderstanding ends up in a cold war where two longtime friends just stop communicating. How do we handle this? How do we navigate this tricky territory and get back to the good place? It’s important to understand how to diffuse an argument before it gets too out of hand so that the relationship does not have to suffer the fallout.

First off, resolving any conflicts requires humility, empathy, and compassion.  You must be willing to consider the other person’s thoughts and feelings and not just think about your own.  This is a skill you learn over time and with practice.  Here are some winning ways you can deescalate a situation before it becomes out of control:

  • Work to identify the real reason behind the problem and stay in control of your language, your tone, and your body posture.
  • Acknowledge that the other person’s point of view is important (they may have a lot invested in their reason for standing up for their views), but humbly ask them to consider your perspective.
  • Realize that there doesn’t need to be a winner, sometimes sharing your ideas can be the whole point. If you point this out, the person fighting so hard to win the argument may look at it in a different light.
  • If there is something keeping you and your friend, colleague, partner at odds, ask if there is a good time to talk it through with the goal of coming to a resolution. In this scenario, try to convey your feelings with compassion for the other person’s point of view. Ask questions about how they are feeling and what you can do to make them feel better.
  • Find common ground. In any disagreement, there is bound to be something to compromise on or common ground to settle on. It is better to sit together and discuss the challenges while agreeing on the specific points. Work at it until you find these common areas.
  • Listen more than you talk. Start off the conversation with the goal of letting the person speak their piece. If you find the conversation veering into an area that is not productive, speak up and suggest a reframing of the conversation to get back on track. When the other person talks, make sure they know you heard what they said.  You can do this by mirroring what they said back to them.
  • If you’ve spoken out of turn or spoken harshly, say you’re sorry. Saying you’re sorry and asking for a chance to do better can stop an argument in its tracks. Doing this as soon as you realize it’s necessary will get you back to a good place in the relationship and give you the opportunity to make things better.

We all know that during a heated argument is not the best time to solve a problem and for that reason, there are techniques that have been developed to help you learn to argue more productively. One of these techniques involves shifting your focus from the words and behaviors of the person you are arguing with to your own words and behaviors. You are the only person you have control over and all you can do in these moments of intense conflict is soften your approach and move to a more humble, vulnerable and open position.

It’s easier said than done, but when you find yourself in the midst of an argument, tell yourself to RELAX. Try to calm yourself down by taking some deep breaths, leaving the room or counting backwards from 10. From a different frame of mind, you can address your friend, colleague or partner from a more loving place, with a calmer voice, and one that does not instigate or provoke them so much.  From this position, your brain is functioning better, you are more centered and there is no doubt you will respond more warmly and your conversation will be more productive and less adversarial.


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