Annette Nay, PhD

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De-Escalating a Conflict
Annette Nay, Ph.D.
Copyright 1999

When a participants start to get out of hand ie.: voices raise in tone and loudness and/or their speech is rapid, it is time for you to bring it back to normal. The way you act can make the difference. Whit out even knowing it the participants will often follow your lead. This is what you do:

  1. Speak in a lower tone.
  2. Speak softly so they have to be quiet to hear you.
  3. Breath deeply.
  4. Speak slower.
  5. Smile.
  6. Watch your body language: When your body language is closed, often you will find that the participants are already or are becoming that way too. Body is a good gauge to monitor escalation of tempers before they flare out of control.
    • Relax.
    • Breath deeply.
    • Un-clinch your fists.
    • Do not make tapping noises.
    • Lips should be in a sweet understanding smile not a hard line.
    • Eyes should be soft and smiling not bulging out or squinty.
    • Loosen the jaw, not clinching the teeth together.
    • Uncross legs and arms so the body language is open and receptive.
    • Sit or stand at eye level with the participants to facilitate the feeling of power or dominance.
    • Listen to the thoughts that are being put out, not thinking thoughts that you would like to punch someone out.
    • Pay attention, not looking out the window or tracing a design with your mind.
  7. Remind the participant and yourself that, "We can find a win-win situation to accommodate both parties. Positive thinking is the key.
  8. Use "I" sentences. Ex: "I think_____." "I feel______."
  9. If a statement seems unclear, ask the participant to state it in another way or if you think you under stand it restate it another way saying, "So what I'm hearing you say is______.. Is this correct?"
  10. Words such as never, always, can't, unless, don't should, shouldn't. mustn't, and better not are all words that invite conflict because they convey an all or nothing effect. There are very few things that are all or nothing and many of them are debatable. So do not use these words!
  11. Words that open a subject to discussion and slow down conflict are: I think, I feel, maybe, it seems like, sometimes, perhaps, I wonder, and what if.
  12. Acknowledge the position of a participant. Never brush it aside as worthless. Use words like: I can appreciate your situation.., It sounds hard for you to________. Thank you for your_______. When one feels demeaned or devalued they get angry.
  13. Angry people tend to talk in monosyllables. This will get you no where. Use open-ended questions to draw these people out and allow them to explain their point of view or idea. An open-ended question is one that cannot be answered with a yes or no. Ex: How would you handle this situation?

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