The first place to start when approaching a situation that may need to be de-escalated, is to know your own style of arguing or conflict. We must know what our own style is so we are able to make adjustments on the fly if needed to the way we interact with others. A helpful question to ask is simply, ‘what is my normal response to an argument?’ There are several common ways people typically respond to arguments. Some of those are: pouting, pampering others, responding passively, protecting or covering up, pleading, verbally attacking, yelling and screaming or threatening. Most people will respond to an argument in one of these ways. They aren’t inherently right or wrong, they are just different ways to respond to conflict. The responses themselves aren’t right or wrong, however what we do with those responses are where the maladaptivity comes into play. Strike that, verbally attacking, yelling and screaming and threatening are inappropriate from the beginning. These responses are maladaptive at their core.
Once we are aware of what our personal style of conflict is, we need to be aware of our triggers. A trigger is something that brings a particular response or creates a set of feelings and emotions causing us to respond. Knowing what triggers we have and how we respond when those triggers present themselves, is critical to appropriately de-escalating a potential conflict before it even starts. I have realized some of my triggers, specifically with my boys, are whining, disrespect, and a general lack of cooperation. When I am faced with these triggers, I have to work very hard to continue in the argument appropriately. Triggers are easy to identify, but difficult to overcome. We need to determine ways to take our triggers and turn them into positive expressions. If we are able to respond to a trigger positively, we will be better suited to de-escalate a conflict before it develops into a full blown conflict.
Being able to de-escalate a conflict before it even starts is a skill which can be taught. Not all conflicts will be able to be de-escalated, but many can be minimized or kept less volatile by engaging in techniques to de-escalate. Knowing how we argue and what our triggers are mark the first steps in being able to de-escalate conflicts. There are many techniques to be learned and skills to add to our skill-set, which we will discover over the next few posts. If we don’t understand where we are and what our starting point is, it will be difficult if not impossible to keep others from escalating into conflict.