10 Conversational Hazards to Avoid During Conflict
These behaviors can totally derail productive discourse
Conflict between human beings is inevitable. Unfortunately, in our zeal to be right, and in exercising our right to scream, many of us destroy relationships, relinquish credibility, and become ineffective to the people we most want to influence.
The solution is not a magic formula but a conscious shift in our relationship with conflict itself. It means learning skills of healthy disagreement, understanding that we can hold fast to our convictions while allowing others to sharpen us and our ideas. It also means engaging impasse in ways that help us truly see each other and let ourselves be seen.
Here is a go-to reference for behaviors to avoid during difficult conversations. I call them “hazards” because they can totally derail productive discourse:
- Trolling: provoking someone in order to knock them off balance. Some people do it unintentionally, but it’s usually a choice. When you’re tempted to troll, consider your motives in the moment. Are you trying to win or promote drama? Are you trying to create a distraction so you don’t have to face strong feelings or challenging ideas? Or are you truly trying to understand?
- Wearing the crown: being condescending or acting superior and should be avoided at all costs. It fosters resentment and power grabbing.
- Pontificating: using big words and ideas that no one else can speak to or giving long-winded speeches that don’t allow for engagement. If you find yourself talking at other people, try using words of one or two syllables for a while. Try using shorter sentences and asking more questions. For the sake of the conversation, challenge yourself to dial it back and share space.
- Bigfooting: spreading conspiracy theories that are unproductive and unprovable one way or another. Stick to what you know that you know and what is reasonable to discuss with your conversation partner.
- Bunny trailing: veering the conversation away from the heart of the matter, either intentionally or unintentionally. This is also called whataboutism (“but what about…”). Whether or not you mean to bunny trail, doing this causes missed conversational…