8 Subtle Ways To Defuse Any Conflict, According To Experts

by Lindsay E. Mack

Even people who crave peaceful relationships will have to deal with conflict every now and then. It's just a part of being human. Thankfully, though, there are some low-key ways to defuse conflict that work wonderfully well. Relieving some of the tension in the room doesn't have to be a big production or anything.

Because even if you're super chill, conflict is bound to arise almost anywhere. Sometimes colleagues get their hackles raised in the workplace. Maybe your best friend is inexplicably mad about something, or the kids have decided to really, really push those boundaries today. Whatever the case, almost everyone needs a strong set of conflict resolution skills, because these everyday tensions aren't going away any time soon.

For starters, though, it's important to maintain your sense of calm during these tense times. If your own temper can get out of hand, then it's also helpful to know how to calm down when you're angry, as explained in Bustle. With a cooler head, however, trying to bring peace to a tense situation isn't all that difficult. A little humor, empathy, and kindness can go a long way in most cases. Read on to learn about the conflict resolution skills that work in the real world.


Use Humor

Sometimes a well-timed joke can work wonders at putting the tense situation into perspective. "You want to use humor gently while still demonstrating you are taking the issue and their concerns seriously," wrote international business speaker Michael Kerr of Humor At Work. A little self-deprecating jab or silly observation about the situation itself might lighten the mood a bit.



Really try to see the other person's perspective. "This step is a cliché because it’s true, and it works. People calm down when they can tell their story and know that it’s heard," wrote Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter in the Harvard Business Review. Acknowledge the difficulty of the tense situation.


React With Kindness

If the other person or persons start showing signs of irritation and dislike, then of course it's tempting to get snippy, too. "That said, mirroring tension and dislike back at difficult people makes things worse," wrote physician Susan Biali Haas, M.D. in Psychology Today. "What works is treating them kindly." (Note that this does not apply to more overt displays of aggression or threats. In these cases, contact the proper authorities and remove yourself from the situation as quickly and safely as possible.)



If the situation is tempting your temper, then it's totally fine to take a break. In fact, taking a minute to breathe and collect your thoughts may actually help relieve some of the conflict. "An intentional pause serves as a mirror for the antagonizer, as their aggressive words reverberate in the silence and seem to hang in the air, hopefully inspiring reflection and awareness," wrote psychotherapist Joyce Marter in HuffPost. Maybe a few moments of silence is exactly what the situation demands.


Consider An Outsider's Perspective

What would the whole conflict scenario look like to a stranger? Considering an outsider's perspective will likely make you less biased. Psychology researcher Igor Grossmann of the University of Waterloo conducted a study and found that referring to yourself in the third person when analyzing a conflict you're having makes you "more likely to think wisely about an issue," reported The Association for Psychological Science. Who knows? In some cases, the issue may not even seem like a worthwhile conflict at all.


Find Some Agreement

Chances are, you can find some common ground in the conflict. "Agreement enhances connection, promotes empathy and reduces threat-the key element in fostering a feeling of safety," wrote Bernard Golden, Ph.D. in Psychology Today. Find something you can all agree on, even if it's minor.


Own Any Mistakes

Yep, this is not the easiest move to make, but according to Piera Palazzo of Dale Carnegie Training, admitting how you helped contribute to the tension can be a big help, explained Inc. Admitting your mistakes can be one of the best tension relievers ever.


Address It Directly

Don't give in to passive-aggressive sniping. Addressing the conflict directly can help keep it from escalating. "We need to find a way to address conflict that is direct and assertive, while also respectful and diplomatic," advised Joyce Marter, psychotherapist and founder of counseling center Urban Balance, writing as a contributor for HuffPost. What you shouldn't do is give into your fight or flight response, she wrote, because neither are effective in resolving a conflict.

Disagreements are tricky, and you really can't predict how things will play out — you can't control the mind and actions of another person, after all. But but by following these tips, you will hopefully be able to diffuse whatever conflict you are challenged with, and at the very least, prevent them from getting worse.