No matter where you go or what you do, conflict is a natural part of life. While everyone tries to avoid conflict as much as possible, sometimes, these incidents are unavoidable. So, rather than try to run from conflict, it’s often better to work on learning de-escalation skills to resolve it.
Fortunately, conflict de-escalation doesn’t have to be a complex task. In fact, anyone can be trained on how to de-escalate conflict, as long as they have the right mindset and a desire to succeed.
But what is conflict de-escalation and how does it work? Let’s break this process down and look at the essential skills necessary for de-escalating these situations.
What is Conflict De-Escalation?
Conflict de-escalation is not just the opposite of conflict escalation. Instead, it’s a learned and applied skill where the primary purpose is to identify and overcome conflicts as they arise.
While conflict escalation happens when two sides continue to disagree and argue, de-escalation occurs when someone can come in and calm everyone down. Typically, it only takes one person to de-escalate a dangerous situation, but there are times when help is necessary.
Overall, the goal of conflict de-escalation is to resolve the root of the problem and to have everyone come to an agreement on how to move forward. In almost all cases, de-escalation is the first step of conflict resolution. Also, de-escalation can be used for managing conflict and preventing it from getting out of control.
Essential Skills for Effective Conflict De-Escalation
For someone to come in and de-escalate a conflict, they have to be able to insert themselves into a potentially dangerous situation with tense emotions. So, there are various skills required to handle these scenarios so that everyone can come out satisfied with the results.
That said, here are the five essential skills necessary to de-escalate a conflict, regardless of the circumstances:
1. Active Listening
One of the most valuable de-escalation techniques is learning how to be an active listener. Active listening means doing more than just hearing and understanding what another person is saying. It also involves respecting the other person’s feelings and circumstances that may have led them to this conflict.
There are several hallmarks of active listening, including:
- Receptive Body Language – If you look like you’re in a defensive position (i.e., crossed arms), you’ll come across as disinterested or combative. So, your body language must be neutral or positive (more on that later).
- Verbal Confirmation and Repetition – It’s not enough to say you understand what someone is saying. Active listening means you reinforce what they’re saying by repeating it back and showing your insight into their situation. Basically, while you don’t want to take sides in a conflict, active listening allows you to illustrate that you can see where each person is coming from.
- Proactive Investigation – You can’t assume that each member of the conflict will be forthcoming with context clues and insight into their actions. In some cases, a person may neglect to provide details that make them look like the aggressor. In other instances, an individual might forget some details due to the stress of the situation.
Overall, active listening is much more engaging and uplifting than passive listening. So, when conflict situations arise, you’re more capable of calming things down, even if both parties are ramped up and ready to fight (verbally or physically).
2. Excellent Communication Skills
Listening is just one valuable de-escalation technique, but you must also know how to communicate effectively. Communication skills are critical during a conflict as they allow you to bridge the gap between the two sides.
Ideally, you can communicate with each person individually and then discuss the situation with the other person in private. By separating the participants, it’s much easier to respond and react when a person challenges you or your ability to de-escalate the conflict. When everything is happening “in public,” it’s harder to save face and make concise and respectful choices.
Communication skills can also come in handy when trying to break down what happened and why. As we’ll discuss later, problem-solving is another critical skill, but you can’t solve anything without understanding the why. So, if you’re not good at communicating and discovering new information, it’s virtually impossible to figure out why someone acted a certain way.
3. Empathy Toward the Person’s Feelings
A person’s behavior can change rapidly and suddenly based on various triggers. So, you can’t assume that someone’s actions are based on rational behavior and thought processes. For example, a person’s anxiety could be causing them to stress out or question everything that happened.
If you do not realize that the person is having anxiety or a panic attack, their actions may come across as aggressive or condescending. So, it’s imperative to try and empathize with each member of the conflict, even if it seems obvious that one person was acting aggressively toward the other.
4. Positive Body Language and Verbal Reinforcement
Typically, positive body language involves touching another person, but you often want to respect personal space during a de-escalation session. Physical contact can feel nice, but it also seems too casual or inviting, which could worsen the situation.
Instead, you either want to keep your body language neutral when you’re talking or make it more positive and uplifting. If you can create hope by moving your arms and hands effectively while talking, you can de-escalate virtually any situation with ease.
Verbal reinforcement is also crucial because it can help diffuse a tense situation. When the person feels validated or respected, they’re more likely to respond in kind.
One of the essential de-escalation skills is figuring out what’s causing the conflict and how to resolve it. Problem-solving requires an open mind and a proactive personality because it’s up to you to determine how each party can move forward while also addressing each person’s concerns.
One challenge of trying to solve problems during a conflict is that you have to offer support to both parties and try to stay as objective as possible. In order to avoid unnecessary altercations, it’s imperative to listen carefully and to give each person options on how to fix the situation.
It’s also necessary to understand that solving the problem may simply be to get both parties to avoid the other, at least for the time being. Because de-escalation is more immediate, you may not get to focus on long-term solutions. Depending on the situation, you may have to focus entirely on de-escalation and worry about other skill sets after the conflict is resolved.
Benefits of Effective Conflict De-Escalation Training
Learning these skills from a trainer at Defuse can help individuals both personally and professionally. Some of the top benefits of effective conflict de-escalation include:
Better Communication Skills
Learning how to communicate with different people during a conflict is a valuable skill that can translate well into other parts of your life. Knowing how to explain a situation and discuss complex topics with others will serve you well both personally and professionally.
Another advantage of learning how to communicate as a means of de-escalation is that you’ll become more proactive. So, instead of waiting for the “right time” to act or talk with someone, you’ll be more motivated to reach out.
Better Understanding of Non-Verbal Cues
One aspect of developing de-escalation skills is learning how to spot the warning signs of a conflict brewing. Body language and facial expressions can tell you a lot about what a person is thinking, not just a few moments before a fight breaks out.
Learning to recognize these cues allows you to anticipate another person’s needs and read how they’re feeling in the moment. From there, you’re in a much better position to approach that person and figure out what’s going on.
Another advantage of learning nonverbal communication is that you can tell when someone is being disingenuous with you. Even if their words mean one thing, their body language could signal something else. Then, you can use that insight to ask open-ended questions to get to the bottom of the problem.
Collaboration is an essential part of life, as no one can do everything themselves. De-escalation training helps you learn how to collaborate with other people, even during stressful or intense situations.
Professionally, this skill means you can work better with others, particularly when you’re on a team. You can also discuss topics and ideas with supervisors and managers to ensure that you’re on the same page.
Overall, when you’re able to come up with creative solutions during a conflict, it’s much easier to do the same thing when tensions aren’t high.
If you’re interested in learning conflict de-escalation, Defuse can help. We offer both online and in-person coaching, and we can work with individuals or groups. Contact us today to find out more!