The battle lines are drawn and despite best intentions, neither party seems to be able to refrain from digging in stubbornly. One thing leads to another and before you know it, communication has deteriorated or broken down altogether.
Sound familiar? If not, it should! We ALL have been there at one time or another. Many times the issue eventually resolves on its own, or the situation changes. But sometimes things go from bad to worse and there are BIG stakes involved such as the division of a business or a home, or issues related to minor children.
Here are some practical tips (I’m not saying they are easy, just practical!) to help de-escalate a conflict that is threatening to get out of hand.
- Try to look at the big picture. In the heat of battle, EVERYTHING feels important. But, how important is this one issue? If you can let it go or back off, consider doing so.
- Pick your battles. If you have to battle, make sure it is over something important enough to spend your energy on. You may have the misfortune of having to deal with someone that makes everything a major battle. If so, you are going to have to stand your ground but just make sure it is on the important stuff.
- Try to see the other person’s point of view (This is the hardest one!). Think to yourself, “If I give the other person the benefit of the doubt, what might s/he be thinking and feeling? What point is s/he really trying to make with all these fireworks?
- Stop and count to 10 slowly. This is something we tell our kids when they are small. Why? Because it works.
- Walk away or hang up the phone. You don’t always have to engage. Leave the other person ranting without your participation and they will eventually run out of steam.
- Get a second opinion & emotional support. Not sure if you are being reasonable? Talk it out with a trusted friend. Ask the friend to be honest and to feel free to help you see if you are missing something. You can also talk with a therapist or religious leader.
- Take the High Road. Disrespecting the other person is like throwing fuel on a fire. Watch your language, attitude and facial expressions. Be determined to act with respect towards the other person, even if you believe they don’t deserve it.
- Get legal support. If you think this is headed for a legal showdown, have a legal consult so that you know what to expect. This is especially important in three situations: a:) business partnership b) family law situation c) neighbor dispute. These three things hit you where you live, literally.
- Get someone to mediate the dispute. Mediation can involve a court-sanctioned process or a more informal process or can simply involve two people who agree to have a third, impartial party help them work things out.
- Protect Yourself. It is very common to feel that you have to fight harder and longer if you are afraid and feel cornered. If you take precautions to protect yourself and your rights you will have an easier time feeling that you are coming from a position of strength and won’t waste energy worrying about being ambushed. (always take precautions for your personal safety and the safety of your family & pets).