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Americans United: Student Affiliates

Supporting church-state separation from campus.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Hints for De-Escalating a Conflict

  • Take a deep breath to stay relaxed.
  • Look the other person in the eye, with both of you sitting or standing.
  • Speak softly and slowly.
  • Keep your legs and arms uncrossed. Do not clench your fists or purse your lips.
  • Keep reminding yourself: "We can find a win-win resolution to this," and remind the other person of this too.
  • If necessary, ask for a break to collect your thoughts or release pent-up tension.
  • Give "I" messages like "I feel that we can compromise on this by..."
  • Paraphrase what the other person has said, asking for clarification as necessary.
  • Watch your language. Words that escalate a conflict are: never, always, unless, can't, won't, don't, should, and shouldn't. Words that de-escalate a conflict are: maybe perhaps, sometimes, what if, it seems like, I feel, I think, and I wonder.
  • Really listen to what the other person is saying, with the goal of truly understanding that person's point of view.
  • Ask questions that encourage the other person to look for a solution. Ask open-ended questions rather than ones that evoke a yes or no response.
  • Keep looking for alternative ideas to resolve your dispute so that both of you have your needs met.

How should I deal with an individual displaying disruptive behavior?

Disruptive behavior should not be ignored. Remain calm. Remind yourself, "It's not about me, it's about the situation." Politely but firmly tell the individual that you find such behavior inappropriate. If they continue to be disruptive, ask them to leave.