14 Tips for Diffusing Conflict

Article
May 2017 by Mike Clayton

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

Escalation
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apologise
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.

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

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

Separation
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.

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