Skip to content

Interpersonal Warfare- 5 Cease Fire Tactics You May Not Have Tried

Next time you're batting heads with someone, give these strategies a try.

My friend called me upset and angry. She had a blow out fight with her boyfriend and couldn’t get past the frustration that he wouldn’t comply with a simple request she made of him. The request wasn’t significant but his refusal was monumental.

My friend attached deep meaning to his turndown causing her heart to feel weighted. Not expecting his reaction turned her hurt into fury. Nothing will launch anger faster than being thrown for a loop.

These moments stimulate the gurgling of pent up anxieties, insecurities, familiar patterns or past indiscretions. Like popping a lemon drop in your mouth. One little sour ball causes your mouth to open its floodgates. You can’t resist the reaction because it’s so automatic.

The key to interpersonal conflict resolution is to reach a climax sooner rather than later. Screaming, name calling, crying and shunning (i.e. the “silent treatment”) only prolongs the conflict and allows more bubbles to surface in the pot that’s already boiling.

Personal attacks shine a mirror on you and have no place in interpersonal warfare. But even if you stick with the facts, you can get caught up in a drama tornado with no obvious way out.

Next time you’re in deep doo doo or someone else tossed you a lemon drop, consider experimenting with one of these strategies.

1. Look at extreme solutions.

Throw resolutions on the table that are extreme even if unrealistic. Say you’re angry because your boyfriend likes to go out with his buddies too often and you’re feeling neglected. The more he fights for his right to continue, the more you battle him. Instead, try throwing out a resolution that gives him more than he’s asking for (without sarcasm). Then throw out the idea of him not seeing his buddies at all. You will successfully interrupt your current fighting pattern. Your brains will begin seeking alternatives to those extremes.

Now you’re both aligned in opposition against the extremes instead of each other. (A third party can be a big help acting as the extremist).  Shifting focus toward middle ground is the key to reaching a mutually desired compromise.

2. Voice expectations that weren’t met.

Conflict almost always involves an unmet expectation. Pause the fight and ask each other this question. “What were you expecting that didn’t happen the way you had hoped?” This accelerates the path to empathy. Empathy is the critical ingredient of compromise.

There is an underbelly to this question. This inquiry gives you insight as to any misunderstanding. Especially true between men and women. By pinpointing and clarifying the misunderstanding, the conflict might end right there.

3. Take turns as the puppeteer.

Each person pretends to be puppeteer looking down on the puppets from above and answers this question. “If I could pull all the strings, make all the decisions, and move all the puppets, what would have to happen for this play to turn out perfectly?”

Sound silly? Here’s why it isn’t. When you give one person within the conflict the responsibility to perfect the whole play–resolve the entire conflict to perfection–they can no longer just think of their own agenda. If perfection is the goal, the person realizes that he/she has to address the needs of all the players.

4. Change the environment, positioning and/or timing.

Best option is to sleep on it. I mentioned this in my My Top 12 Marriage Myths post. When you’re tired, cranky, invested emotionally in words already uttered, the best thing you can do is get some rest. Leave the argument hanging. Forgiveness, empathy, compassion, and compromise might take you 5 minutes over a cup of coffee after a good night’s rest.

What have you got to lose? Afraid you can’t sleep? Well, you won’t be sleeping anyway if you’re still arguing.

Having a conflict with your child, coworker, or friend? Try continuing the discussion on a walk. Fresh air, physical activity and an absence of eye contact can just be the ticket to progress.

5. Switch places.

Take a few minutes advocating the other person’s position. Two things will happen. Arguing on behalf of the competing agenda validates that you were really listening to their input from the get-go. Insures you didn’t misunderstand or misinterpret something in the heat of battle. Second, it breaks the pattern of your own insistence. The more effective you are at voicing your position, the more invested you are in winning.

The best communicators are often the most stubborn. Supreme talkers recognize their own momentum. The words roll off their tongue gaining force like a snowball rolling down the hill. One way to handle these verbal masters is to have them shift into your shoes for a couple of minutes. It will slow them down and get them on track toward compromise. (I know because I’m one of them:)!

Works great with teenagers because it forces parents to think like a teenager (you were once) which is essential to understanding and making sure your child feels heard regardless if they get their way in the end. Reflect and then react.


Given my strong advocacy for the written word throughout this blog, you may be surprised not to find that strategy on this list. I’ve seen enough back and forth written dialogues, many involving myself, that have caused more tension and conflict than they resolved. Much like road rage, we now hide behind keyboards and social networks. Filters have vanished and courage has flourished. A combination that has destroyed many relationships.

When we objectify everything with our words, we lose the human side of conflict resolution. We are thinking and feeling human beings.

We can read between the lines but we see unspoken words through eyes, body language and expression. We may stay connected with our fingers but we love with our arms.

May compromise rear its pretty face and all conflicts end in hugs this holiday season.

"You can't shake hands with a clinched fist." Indira Gandhi


If you liked this post, check these out:

The Five Directives of Friendly Debate

My Top 12 Marriage Myths

Anchors Away: A Key To Ending Conflict and Triggering Peak Performance

  1. It has been a while since I have commented so today is catch-up. I bet I am one of many who read several posts at a time. Likewise, I must be one of many who take from your journals what is needed in our own lives. Now I thought long and hard about The Driver’s Seat people (Nov 12th) and how you said, “ no matter how strong, everyone has seams and pinholes.” Being an avid quilter, that pins and needles reference stuck me. (Pun on words intended-LOL) Every organization has ten or so who do all the work while the rest sit back, maybe complain and most of the time do not participate. Yet I have seen how the smallest of contributions yield success thus smoothing out those pin perforations.

    Your Nov. 20th ten steps to defeat obesity are right on point. With all the helpful menus you provide, how could a family not succeed if they only followed half of what you suggest. Susan, I look forward to your opinions upon genetic altering whether animal or plant and how it is changing a full generation and leading us to unknown illnesses.

    And I totally agree with today’s blog. If I cannot see one’s eyes and body language, I am ill at ease. Personal contact is necessary to close any deal or conversation. Unspoken words are much louder than any we hear.

    Thanks again for this post from your OWL. What? An owl, you question? Yep, somewhere on the Internet I saw a reference to the elderly being owls, i.e. Older, Wiser, Laughing Souls. That is what I want to be.

    December 6, 2012
    • fitskitz

      You are so brilliant, Donna! I should write a series called “Donna’s Sense”! AMEN to everything you said and I just looooooove the OWL reference. If you’re old(er), wise and can still laugh that’s when you know you’ve lived a good life:-)

      December 9, 2012
  2. Linda Glass #

    GREAT post! I find myself getting caught up in “emails” as a way to communicate, and sometimes they do work, depending on the situation. But I agree, human interaction is so important!

    December 7, 2012

Comments are closed.