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👂 Tip: De-escalate a potentially heated interaction with the phrase “That sounds frustrating.”

Ian Rowe, who has talked to approximately 3,380 upset customers throughout his life (he did the math!), shares this advice for communicating with an upset human: Acknowledge their feelings early on. In his Medium story on elevating your conflict game, he writes that a “magic phrase” you can use is “That sounds frustrating.” The words, he explains, do three things: 1) acknowledge the other person’s truth, 2) don’t place any blame on either party, and 3) allow you to start the conversation already agreeing about something. Use…

A psychology-based approach to conflict

Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

About five years ago my significant other and I were in a dumb argument. I wasn’t backing down. She wasn’t backing down.

During the stalemate, I vented to a friend. I explained to him in agonizing detail why I was right, why my significant other was wrong, how the world would be better off if I could just get her to understand this — and did this guy have any advice for convincing her that I was right? His response: “Do you want to be right or happy?”

This question has since saved me a lot of headaches and led…

💘 Today’s tip: In an argument, ask yourself, Is what I’m about to say or do respectful? (Really. That’s it.)

When you can’t really leave the house, keeping peace with the people you share it with feels more important than ever — and more difficult. Why is your partner/roommate/child being so annoying, anyway?

That we can’t answer, but we do have some advice: When you feel your irritability blooming into conflict, try a tactic called “full respect living.” As Jancee Dunn explains it: “Nothing you do or say to each other should drop below the level of simple respect.” That…

🛏 ️Today’s tip: It’s fine — even healthy — to go to bed angry.

The holidays can be merry and intense — especially this year, when you might be having some tough conversations with your partner or family around canceling plans. If the stress of conflict is sapping your energy, the best thing to do, Indi Samarajiva writes, is go to sleep.

Samarajiva rejects the common relationship advice to never go to bed angry: “You shouldn’t operate heavy machinery while drowsy, including the delicate machine that is your relationship.” What he’s found is that a fight is a feeling —…

A five-step plan

Photo: Halfdark/Getty Images

As a therapist, I am good at managing emotions. Well, more precisely, I’m good at helping my clients learn to manage emotions. I’m much less successful with some of my own — especially when my emotions interact with another person’s.

I am deeply terrified of conflict. Throughout my life, I’ve done everything in my power to hide from it: I’d avoid friends or family members for days, hoping whatever issue we were dealing with would just fizzle away. And then I fell in love with someone who does not share these tendencies — at all.

Scenarios between my partner and…

Today’s tip: Keep disagreements productive by summarizing the other person’s point back to them.

One sentence that can stop a conflict from blowing up into something bigger: “So what I’m hearing is….”

On Human Parts, the executive coach Don Johnson explains the importance of reflective listening, a key part of approaching any conversation with humility and empathy. Getting there involves letting go of your ego a bit: Instead of assuming you know what the other person means, make sure you do.

“Summarize what you think you have heard and check to make sure you have it right,” Johnson writes…

In the aftermath of a presidential debate that was legitimately scarring to witness, we return to ‘bunny trailing.’ That is, number five of Melody Stanford Martin’s 10 conversational hazards to avoid during conflict. You could also call it ‘whataboutism.’ Whatever your chosen nomenclature, it describes veering a conversation away from the matter at hand and threatening to derail the whole exchange in the process. And, courtesy of President Donald Trump, it made for a couple of particularly tense moments in Tuesday night’s debate.

If you have the stomach for it, our friends at GEN laid out the play-by-play.

These behaviors can totally derail productive discourse

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.


Magic happens when you let yourself pause

A man closes his eyes and massages his temples to relieve stress in front of his laptop.
A man closes his eyes and massages his temples to relieve stress in front of his laptop.
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Over the past two decades, I’ve advised Fortune 500 companies and high-growth teams, worked with Middle East leaders and conducted U.S. government-funded research on terrorism — all in the name of helping people find better ways of working together. Along the way, I’ve realized that emotional awareness can make the difference between ongoing conflict and constructive action.

It’s a skill that comes in especially handy right now, as we’re all facing new challenges and disruptions to our daily lives. …

There’s a right way to handle conflict (and several wrong ones)

2 parents fight over map directions in the car while their children peer over the back seat.
2 parents fight over map directions in the car while their children peer over the back seat.
Photo: Peter Cade/Stone/Getty Images

Conflict puts children on alert. When it’s handled badly by the adults around them, it threatens their sense of security and leaves them less able to be open and curious about the world.

But in even the healthiest and most functional family, some degree of conflict is inevitable. And disagreements, in and of themselves, do not have to be harmful to the children who witness them. It’s how you work through the conflict (or don’t) and find a resolution (or not) that matters.

What, then, is the ideal way to argue in front of your kids?

The 4 (not-great) styles of conflict

A conflict has two…


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