Keep Conflict From Spiraling Out of Control

Jul 15

The disagreements between baseball managers and umpires over balls and strikes in crucial moments in key games are legendary. In these moments, the conflict between the manager and the umpire can quickly turn from a heated conversation to a full-out confrontation with the manager cursing, screaming, and following the umpire all over the field.

The more intense a conflict becomes, the more likely it is for us to experience the fight-or-flight syndrome. No matter how adept we believe we are at managing our emotions, we often lose our composure and lose sight of ourselves when the conflict escalates.

Conflict even in the most critical of situations, however, doesn’t have to spiral out of control and descend into chaos or become unresolvable. Knowing when a conflict is escalating toward that point of no return requires knowing when to delay responding and take a well-needed “time out” to gather your thoughts, cool off, and slow the pace down.

The information below will give you the insight needed to recognize those critical moments and choose to alter the trajectory of the conflict simply by taking the opportunity to delay your response.

Notice When Either You or The Other Person Are Responding Out of Hurt or Humiliation

As is the case with the manager and the umpire, there comes a point in the conflict where one person’s behavior crosses the line with the other person or you feel hurt or humiliated. The person who first recognizes that the argument has gotten out of control can choose to take a break and delay responding. Being able to step back from the highly charged environment and give both people the time to gather their thoughts and disengage from the tense moment prevents the disagreement from escalating.

Notice When It Would Be Good to Break the Momentum

For many, the most frustrating aspect of the conflict is when all reason and rationality leave the scene. If either person during the conflict becomes belligerent, uses sarcasm, personal attacks, derogatory language, insults, or consistently engages in blaming the other, things spiral out of control. Choosing to ask for a pause and delaying your response can provide the necessary break needed for all involved to regain their composure and begin looking at what may be valid alternate solutions.

Noticing When the Conversation No Longer is Effective

When the stakes are high, and tensions are mounting, each and every point becomes more and more crucial. People become more focused on making their points, and listening for understanding becomes listening for the other person to finish so you can say what you want to say. Choosing to delay your next response and ask for a break in the conversation with the intent to re-engage later gives each person the needed time to gain clarity about what has happened, determine what is the most crucial thing to be resolved, and let go of those things that were overhyped in the heat of the conflict.

Noticing these patterns and consciously choosing to delay how you respond gives you a chance to step away from the conflict and turn the focus to calming down and determining how best to re-engage the person in a constructive way. Opting to delay your response is not about reflecting on what transpired but rather about dissipating the tension, anger, and stress caused by the conflict. The next time you’re in a conflict, ask to step away to gather your thoughts and formulate a response that will bring constructive resolution to the conflict.