In the midst of a rather tense and emotionally charged conversation, you make what you think is an appropriate comment defending your perspective. Your conversational partner distorts his face into a look of disbelieve, puffs up and points his finger at you. You don’t know what to say or do to keep the conversation from derailing…
The Four C’s of Managing Moments of Escalation
- Compose: In our brain are mirror neurons that mirror the physiology of people around us, meaning as you compose and self-regulate so will your partner. Bring down your heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure by taking a breath, straightening your posture, grounding into the floor or chair, slowing down your rate of speech, dropping your volume and managing your tone.
- Check: Use a two-step process to check out what just happened: State the change you just noticed and ask a question about the cause. Eg. “I just noticed you let out a sigh, what just happened?” Or “I just noticed our conversation heated up. What message did you just receive from what I said?” Whatever they respond with, prove you heard it. Don’t debate it, negate it, contradict it or argue it, instead honour it.
- Clarify: State what you did mean to say and why. If you made an error in how you said it, or in what you said, own it.
- Close: The moment of escalation needs a pink bow around it! Once you’ve clarified, re-focus the conversation back to the topic you were discussing. This can be done by asking the other person a question about his/her perspective or by providing a summary of the key points prior to the moment of escalation.
Productive dialogue is cultivated moment-by-moment. Use these four steps to allow rich and meaningful dialogue to emerge out of moments of escalation.
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