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Diffusing Disagreements

The Holiday Season is upon us which means more time spent with family, friends, and co-workers in intimate settings. This can also mean more conversation and potentially more conflict if you aren’t prepared. Whatever gatherings you find yourself in, it is possible to keep it civil no matter where the conversation goes. All it takes is some thoughtful consideration on your part to keep situations that don’t need to be escalated at a reasonable level.

Six Ways to Dial Back Conflict

1. Honesty is the best policy. One of the best ways to tone down a conflict is to be vulnerable. This is because when you are open and honest—even in a heated situation—it restores trust which in turn can develop into mutual respect. The trick to this one is delivery. Don’t come out swinging in your response. Keep calm, cool, and earnest about what you are feeling and why. Sharing that you are struggling with something ultimately fosters more understanding and support than pretending you have everything under control.

2. Think about the “why”. It is important to step back for a minute and really observe a situation at its core. “Why isn’t this working?” should be a constant question you ask yourself as you imagine yourself in other’s shoes. This in turn helps you understand how others may be feeling and what needs to be done to right the ship.

3. Stay centered. It is easy to go off the rails when everyone else does, but someone has to be able to practice some self-control and not engage in a negative manner. All humans are reactionary. It is in our nature. Try to find some time where you can have uninterrupted silence to gather your thoughts and center your being. This helps you to stay calm even as others are melting down. A simple “pause” before saying something, or even stopping a conversation to run it past a trusted friend or family member can go a long way to keeping it from escalating to an ugly place.

4. Create a safe space to work it out. Layout the rules for everyone so that a productive conversation can be had. Make sure that everyone is clear that they will get a turn to explain their side, but that they can’t talk over others during their turn. When someone has the where-with-all to create safe conversations, everyone wins and things can be discussed without getting too out of hand.

5. Listening is more important than speaking. Everyone wants to get a word in, but sometimes it is better to just listen and try to understand. Take the time to acknowledge other’s feelings and use reflective language so they know you have heard them. Be compassionate and empathetic in your responses.

6. Say “thank you”. You may not agree with someone else’s perspective but take the time to thank them for sharing it with you. It’s an easy way to show others you appreciate them even in the face of difficult conversations where you will never see eye-to-eye. Again, defusing conflict is very much about building trust and there is no better way to build trust than showing you appreciate the people around you. Even when you don’t always agree.

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