What Tactics Do Mediators Use to De-Escalate Tense Conflicts?

    Authored By

    Mediator Experts

    What's one tactic you've used to de-escalate a tense moment in a conflict resolution session?

    In the heat of conflict, the right tactic can turn the tide towards resolution and understanding. Drawing on the experiences of HR Managers and Co-Founders, we've compiled five strategies that have proven effective. From acknowledging imperfections to encouraging perspective-taking with skill-share, discover the diverse approaches these experts use to de-escalate tense moments.

    • Accept Imperfections and Misinterpretations
    • Maintain Calm and Invite Reflection
    • Utilize the Power of Silence
    • Share Skills to Encourage Empathy

    Accept Imperfections and Misinterpretations

    When things become tense, I usually tell the parties that everyone is human and no one walking this Earth is perfect. People make mistakes, and it is okay—just own up to it, make better choices and decisions, and move on to what can be controlled.

    Many times, we use words that make sense to us, but the other party misinterprets what we are trying to say. So, asking better questions of listeners/receivers and trying to better understand another's viewpoint is extremely helpful in de-escalating any situation.

    Christine Dykeman
    Christine Dykeman Trainer & Facilitator / Learning & Development / Human Capital Manager / Employee Engagement, Helping Clients To See the Light

    Maintain Calm and Invite Reflection

    In tense situations where emotions run high, I employ a strategy focused on maintaining a calm and composed demeanor. I consciously adopt a relaxed posture and keep my hands folded in front of me, signaling a non-confrontational stance. My attentive gaze communicates I am fully engaged in listening, and during their outburst, I refrain from interjecting with words.

    Once they have expressed themselves, I allow a moment of silence to linger, making the atmosphere slightly awkward. I gently inquire, “Are you done?” This question serves as a subtle invitation for them to reflect on their emotional outburst. Following this, I outline my planned course of action, emphasizing that my response remains consistent regardless of the intensity of the exchange.

    This approach aims to de-escalate the tension by introducing a pause for reflection and steering the conversation towards a more constructive path.

    Scott Johnson
    Scott JohnsonHR Manager

    Utilize the Power of Silence

    In my role as the CEO of an educational company, I've often had to mediate conflicts. One strategy that I've found to work surprisingly well is what I term “The Silence Treatment.” Often in heated situations, I'll purposefully allow a moment of quiet to settle over the room.

    Strangely enough, silence holds power, and it can get people to rethink their aggression. It's like hitting the mental reset button. During this pause in the dialogue, people can gather their thoughts and reassess their emotions, which ultimately leads to a more composed discussion.

    Nooran Zafarmand
    Nooran ZafarmandCo-Founder And CEO, Japamana

    Share Skills to Encourage Empathy

    One trick in my toolbox for reducing tension during conflict resolution is the “Skill-Share.” When situations spiral, I ask the conflicting parties to briefly step into their partner's shoes and explain their perspective.

    It can be awkward, but it tends to break the hostile environment and fosters a sense of understanding and respect. Making them articulate the other's argument often reveals shared ground, immediately lowering the temperature and enabling us to refocus on the solutions at hand.

    Abid Salahi
    Abid SalahiCo-founder & CEO, FinlyWealth