10 Crucial Steps For Deescalating Conflict


Having conflicts with others is tough. Conflicts can occur due to many reasons, such as having disagreements, miscommunicating important information, or because of inappropriate behavior. Conflicts can occur with colleagues at work, with family members at home, with partners and friends in our personal lives, and in school with classmates. No one wants to allow situations to get out of control just because people are not able to come to a solid solution that will benefit everyone.

Here are 10 tips on how to deescalate conflicts that you can implement in any setting and respond effectively to difficult behavior.

1. Be Empathic And Nonjudgmental

When someone says or does something you perceive as odd or irrational, try not to judge or discount their feelings. Whether or not you think those feelings are justified, they’re real to the other person. Pay attention to them. Keep in mind that whatever the person is going through, it may be the most important thing in their life at the moment.

2. Respect Personal Space

If possible, stand 1.5 to three feet away from a person who’s escalating. Allowing personal space tends to decrease a person’s anxiety and can help you prevent acting-out behavior. If you must enter someone’s personal space to provide care, explain your actions so the person feels less confused and frightened.

3. Use Nonthreatening Nonverbals

The more a person loses control, the less they hear your words, and the more they react to your nonverbal communication. Be mindful of your gestures, facial expressions, movements, and tone of voice. Keeping your tone and body language neutral will go a long way toward defusing a situation.

4. Avoid Overreacting

Remain calm, rational, and professional. While you can’t control the person’s behavior, how you respond to their behavior will have a direct effect on whether the situation escalates or defuses. Positive thoughts like “I can handle this” and “I know what to do” will help you to maintain rational thoughts and behavior and help to calm down the other person.

5. Focus On Feelings

Facts are important, but how a person feels is the heart of the matter. Some people have trouble identifying how they feel about what’s happening to them. Watch and listen carefully for the person’s real message. Try saying something like “That must be scary.” Supportive and validating words like these will let the person know that you understand what’s happening, and you will likely get a positive response.

6. Ignore Challenging Questions

Answering challenging questions often results in a power struggle. When a person challenges your authority, redirect their attention to the issue at hand. Ignore the challenge but not the person. Bring their focus back to how you can work together to solve the problem.

7. Set Limits

If a person’s behavior is belligerent, defensive, or disruptive, give them clear, simple, and enforceable limits. Offer concise and respectful choices and consequences. A person who’s upset may not be able to focus on everything you say. Be clear, speak simply, and offer the positive choice first.

8. Choose Wisely What You Insist Upon

It’s important to be thoughtful in deciding which rules are negotiable and which are not. For example, if a person doesn’t want to shower in the morning, can you allow them to choose the time of day that feels best for them? If you can offer a person options and flexibility, you may be able to avoid unnecessary altercations.

9. Allow Silence For Reflection

We’ve all experienced awkward silences. While it may seem counterintuitive to let moments of silence occur, sometimes it’s the best choice. It can give a person a chance to reflect on what’s happening and how they need to proceed. Believe it or not, silence can be a powerful communication tool.

10. Allow Time For Decisions

When a person is upset or angry, they may not be able to think clearly. Give them a few moments to think through what you’ve said. A person’s stress rises when they feel rushed. Allowing time brings calm.

If you need assistance in resolving conflicts, reach out for help from a mental health professional!