Well that Escalated Quickly

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and it seems to escalate out of nowhere?

Do you find yourself wondering what went wrong or what’s all the fuss about?

Chances are that the other person was ‘triggered’ in some way to adopt a defensive stance. Triggered reactions are specific to the individual and are as varied as snowflakes or Marvel Comic adaptations. When someone has a triggered reaction that has taken them to a defensive, or even aggressive stance, it is their way of protecting and defending themselves. After all, anger like all other emotions has an important job to do. Anger is a ‘protector’ emotion


First – Don’t react from a place of anger, strong emotions bring about strong emotions in others and can lead to a quick escalation.

Try this – Lower your voice and soften your face when you respond, this helps to ease the stress and or tension that comes up with strong emotions

Second – Don’t panic, and for criminy sakes don’t escalate the situation by getting defensive.  I know this can be our gut reaction toward hostilities of any kind, but when defensive behavior meets defensive behavior, it is a match to a flammable substance.

Try this – get curious. Seek understanding by asking some questions. You could ask them to clarify their point of view or tell them you are having a hard time understanding where they are coming from and that you really want to try to see it from their point of view. You could also apologize and say you can tell that something you have said has impacted them negatively, and that was not your intent. Genuine curiosity can often diffuse defensive behavior.

Third – Check the facts. Is their defensiveness or anger valid? Did you say or do something that unfairly judged them? Did you make a statement that left no room for a different point of view?

Try this – Rephrase what you said from your point of view. Use phrases like, in my point of view, in my opinion, I believe that. Be sure to leave room for a discussion and some back and forth with the other person.

Fourth – Don’t get stuck right-fighting. We all want to be seen and heard in the way that we intended, but getting stuck in a loop of “word salad” will lead to more misunderstanding and escalation.

Try thisExcuse yourself with Grace. Some conversations we just need to get out of.  Sometimes it’s just “not you, it’s them”. We all have bad days. There is a time and place for diving deeper with someone and a time and a place to exit stage left.

Conflict is inevitable, healthy conflict is how we grow. Our understanding of the way something is, and our opinions were meant to grow and change and a healthy debate can be productive. When a meeting of the minds doesn’t occur, agreeing to disagree is often a valid solution.

Photo by Chris Sabor on Unsplash


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