How to Resolve Conflict Peacefully

By: Kylie Radford

The year 2020 saw the interruption of human interaction, as we were all forced online in a solitary environment. Coming back into social environments has proved a challenge for many, with conflicts arising. Teens can often be impulsive, emotional, and passionate at times. While this passion can be beneficial, it can also lead to conflicts with others. This is especially the case with those who have differing views. Sadly, for some teens who don’t know how to resolve a conflict, these conflicts can lead to arguments, fighting, and breaks in relationships. This often results in many unwanted consequences. Left unresolved, conflict can also lead to frequent problems and even physical fighting. The steps below are simple, but they may not always be easy. However, these steps may be able to support cooperation, collaboration, and friendship among teens. Here are a few methods to peacefully resolve conflict and avoid escalation:

Ms. Hofmann recently shared the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Top 10 De-escalation tips. The CPI recommends: being empathetic and non judgemental, respecting personal space, using non threatening verbiage, keeping your emotions in check, focusing on emotions, ignoring challenging questions, setting limits, choosing wisely what you insist upon, allowing silence for reflection, allowing time for decisions. Let’s expand upon these briefly.

After identifying the source of the conflict, you will want to take turns sharing your feelings and thoughts about the topic at hand. Being empathetic and non judgemental can often be difficult when we feel personally attacked in some way. However, it is important to make sure that in cases of conflict you do not judge or be dismissive of the feelings of the other person. Remember that the person’s feelings are real, whether or not you think those feelings are justified. Respect those feelings, and keep in mind that you don’t know what this person could be going through. Also focus on understanding the situation fully. We often assume that we already know everything, but that often leaves us with missing pieces of information.

Monitoring your body language and tone of voice is essential to de-escalation. Be aware of your position, posture, and proximity when interacting with others. Allowing personal space shows respect, keeps you safer, and tends to decrease a person’s anxiety. If you must enter someone’s personal space to provide care, explain what you’re doing so the person feels less confused and frightened. When people are in distress they are less likely to process your words. This often leads to them reacting to your nonverbal communication. Be mindful of your gestures, facial expressions, and movements. Keeping your tone neutral also goes a long way in defusing a situation.

Ensure that you keep your emotions in check: remain calm, rational, and professional. While you can’t control a person’s behavior, how you respond to their behavior will have a direct effect on whether the situation escalates or defuses. Positive thoughts such as “I can handle this” and “I know what to do” can help you maintain your own rationality and calm the person down.

Focus on the feelings of the person you have conflict with. 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, so watch and listen carefully for the person’s real message. Try being supportive with something like “That must be scary.” Supportive phrases like these will let the person know that you understand what’s happening—and you may get a positive response.

It can also prove effective to ignore challenging questions. Engaging with people who ask challenging questions is rarely productive. 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.

Setting limits can often aid the resolution of conflict. As a person progresses through a crisis, give them respectful, simple, and reasonable limits. Offer concise and respectful choices and consequences. A person that is upset may not be able to focus on everything you say. Be clear, speak simply, and offer the positive choice first. It is also beneficial to establish ground rules for the discussion, such as no interrupting and no yelling.

Be sure to 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. When tackling a hard conversation, you must establish a purpose and a goal for the discussion. This makes it easier to resolve the issue through problem solving.

Allowing silence for reflections is very beneficial. 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. Silence can be a powerful communication tool. 

It is essential to allow time for decisions. When a person is upset, 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.

Current events in the world remind us that conflict and crisis are never as straightforward and simple in life as they are on paper (or in an article). By putting simple strategies to work in each element of our daily life, we acknowledge that we can’t control what other people may do, but we can set a stage of positive potential for what we do. We can prepare the spaces we inhabit to be more receptive to nonviolence, we can empower individuals to respond to crises more mindfully and compassionately, and we can maintain more hope for healing and recovery from the traumas that crises and conflict can leave in their wake.

We each must do our part to create a culture of caring. A thoughtful, prepared, and supportive approach to the situations we face in life can help us navigate beyond crisis and toward connection. And connection should be the ultimate goal that we share as residents on this planet; we should all strive to deepen and sustain humanity and decency.

Ms. Hofmann stated, “If we would just follow one or two of these when we are in a conflict with another person, I think it would make all the difference in the outcome of that situation.  When all else fails, take a deep breath, count to 10, walk away.”  


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