10 Conversational Hazards to Avoid During Conflict

These behaviors can totally derail productive discourse

Melody Stanford Martin
Forge
Published in
4 min readSep 28, 2020

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Photo: Morsa Images/Getty Images

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:

  1. 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?
  2. Wearing the crown: being condescending or acting…

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Melody Stanford Martin
Forge
Writer for

Melody Stanford Martin is a social ethicist, communications expert, and author of Brave Talk: Building Resilient Relationships in the Face of Conflict.