There are things we can do before a conversation becomes difficult and during the conversation itself.
At times conflict flares up when we least expect it. At other times, we may be aware of underlying tensions and know that a flare up could happen at any time. Sometimes a conflict simmers, eating away at relationships and eroding trust, like rust eats away at bare metal.
We can prevent a conversation turning into an argument by knowing how to respond in ways that lessen the chances of conflict arising and preparing the ground for a difficult conversation.
At the time the conversation takes place, we can become better at handling things by being aware of what is happening to us and by using approaches that can help diffuse the potential for conflict.
In effect, what we are doing is to create new templates that we can turn to in a potentially difficult situation. This can include replacing an emotional reaction with one that is not emotional – a response rather than a reaction. And if we don’t react emotionally, then we can access our social mind to use templates that can help to calm the situation. Of course, this all sounds easy, in practice, and in the heat of the moment, it can prove challenging even for the best of us. The good news is that with practice we can all become better at it.
We’ve called our approach the 4Ps – Pause, Prepare, Postpone, Proceed.