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Conflict management: An essential preparedness asset

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Unread 12.14.18, 02:14 PM
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Conflict management: An essential preparedness asset

12.13.18 10:01 PM

It can feel like there is almost no end to the different aspects of emergency preparedness. Many of them are straightforward while others are not so clear. Some of these come easily while others may require hours of dedication and practice. One of the lesser-discussed aspects of emergency preparedness is how to deal with conflict by de-escalating the situation. Talking an individual or group down from a heightened state of emotion and energy can be the difference between life and death.

De-escalation and conflict management can be looked at as crisis prevention. Simply stated, if conflict is not managed properly, it could lead to a full-blown crisis. This is a scenario that no sane person wants to find themselves in. This is especially true for the person who is preoccupied with the idea of surviving.

The single greatest objective in managing conflict should be de-escalation without the use of violence.

An additional consideration is that conflict management can be a very difficult proposition. This is further complicated by the fact that many of us donít have much, if any, experience dealing with major conflict.

To add to that, there is a natural instinct to escalate a situation as a means to come out on top (for some of us anyway). The ability to segregate personal emotions while a personís instincts are to react defensively, matching the level of emotion and energy that someone else is directing toward you is tough. This dictates the need for discipline and making a conscious decision to remain calm and flat during conflict.

Verbal judo is one of the best ways I have heard the set of skills that make up de-escalation referred to as. I like it because actual judo can subdue a situation without any party being meaningfully harmed. When talking about using language for de-escalation, it is important that the volume, tone and cadence used are considered equally as much as the words you choose.

Here are eight tips you can use to help de-escalate an emergency situation:

#1 ó Use empathy and donít judge

A good starting point for conflict management is to place yourself in the shoes of the other party. Seeing yourself from their perspective will provide insight into why they may be feeling the way they are.

It is very easy to quickly identify the flaws in others, even when we may possess some of these same flaws ourselves. Keep this in mind when dealing with others during conflict and remain free of judgement to enable yourself to more quickly find a common ground to work from.

Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: what fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize? ó Marcus Aurelius, Philosopher and Emperor of Rome

Having an understanding and judgement-free approach can be the primary ingredient for success in conflict management.

#2 ó Donít give in to challenging questions

In the face of conflict, a person may turn to asking challenging questions. Sometimes this has the sole purpose of trying to get a rise out of a person and further escalate the situation.

Questions that challenge may include things like:

  • Do you think Iím dumb?
  • Are you trying to get hurt?
  • Why are you focusing on only me?
  • What are you going to do about it?
These types of questions can be the result of insecurities and fear, but all have an origin in what the person perceives as a true need.

It is possible that questions may even make way to challenging statements that, if not skillfully navigated, could even further escalate the situation.

When trying to de-escalate a situation, downplay the questions but never downplay the person.

#3 ó Set limits

A tense or difficult situation will not typically be resolved without setting some type of limits. By having limits, a reasonable solution can be discovered by slowing a situation down and finding a positive, mutually beneficial resolution. Some of the ways to set limits include:

  • Be clear and speak simply.
  • Provide the most positive options first.
  • If you can, donít force someone in a direction they are not willing to go.
  • Donít be afraid to set consequences for choices when it is appropriate.
#4 ó Be careful about what you insist upon

How rigid do you have to be? Is there room for flexibility?

Insisting upon unreasonable, unattainable or disagreeable circumstances may lead to more problems than solutions.

Think about the fact that having some flexibility may lead to a desirable outcome in the end.

#5 ó Respect the space of others

No one likes a creeper, and no one likes feeling like theyíre being crept upon. Always err on the side of caution and leave enough space between yourself and others, especially when trying to de-escalate a situation. If people feel like they are being closed in on, it will likely lead to added tension.

#6 ó Allow other parties an appropriate amount of time when making decisions

Making someone feel rushed when you are trying to get them to calm down is only going to serve as fuel for their ever-rising fire. While a life and death situation doesnít often have a lot of extra time built in, when the situation allows, try to leave ample time for yourself and others to be able to decide. Of course, this assumes that giving someone time to think would not lead to an even worse set of circumstances.

#7 ó Account for feelings

It may seem a little soft, but considering the feelings that individuals in a situation are experiencing can be an important step to a peaceful outcome. The emotions that follow a disaster can come at you like a freight train while simultaneously flooding your body with things like adrenaline and perhaps even physical pain. Not only does the way you feel matter, but any other parties involved are experiencing their own feelings that may need a moment to be processed.

#8 ó Use non-threatening behavior

This may seem obvious, but it is worth listing because even if everything sounds and feels right, if things donít look right people can get the wrong idea. Non-verbal cues can also mean different things to different people making them even more volatile in already tense situations. Much like choosing your words carefully, choosing your behavior can be equally, if not more, important in de-escalating a situation.

Even with these tips at hand, remember that you may need to redirect a person back to the topic at hand if there is a diversion from it. This helps remain solution-focused and eliminates getting hung up on unneeded or unnecessary things.

I am sure that itís probably easy for some to read this and say that it doesnít very well matter whether any consideration is given to conflict resolution because when it all hits the fan, there will not be any peaceful resolution to any situation. My thoughts are that is simply not true. There can be a need for negotiation and managing conflict in our day to day lives now, and if the world seems to be coming to an end. Not only from the perspective of survival, but even when thinking about things like work, relationships and family.

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