Escalation in Conflict: Dynamics and Paths to Resolution

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Conflict is Hard on the Soul

We’ve all been there, discussing with a colleague in the office some seemingly routine project and then all hell seems to be breaking loose. In other words, conflict escalation. Both sides take up their intransient positions. Not only did it come out of nowhere but now it’s consuming our thoughts.

We can’t concentrate on what we’re doing and we seek validation by sharing what happened with another colleague, trying to remain professional, yet wanting to tell them that he’s a complete ‘Tuesday’.

Even worse are the keyboard warrior spats. Again, we’ve all done it. Just this side of aggressive, yet passive enough an email, that we can get away with the absence of tone being our great defender, should we need it. ‘Oh, that’s not what I meant’, said with the innocence of Little Red Riding Hood.

Can you Avoid Conflict Escalation?

Some conflict is good and should be encouraged because to completely avoid conflict is never going to work either. Tuckman, the guy who came up with the team stages of Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing, knew that a team could never get beyond stage 1 if they were always just too nice to each other.

Infographic diagram of the 5 Stages of Group Development
Tuckman’s Model


Equally, getting through stage 2 was essential too if they wanted to reach the promise land. It’s about getting through the storming stage without creating floods so bad that the team cannot fix what was broken by the rain. In other words, reducing the escalations.

Searching online for conflict management tips there are plenty. Yet, in my most recent LinkedIn poll you voted in droves that of all the soft skills, conflict had the least amount of advice and help available. Strange. I believe the reason is that the advice is to take a breath, go for a walk, see it from the other person’s perspective, and the like.

Good Advice and Help is Available

I think I speak for us all when I say that that all sounds great. But what I really want to do when I am arguing with someone is to give them a good slap, yet that advice was nowhere to be found!

See it from their perspective – Really? I don’t want to. I’m right. I am. So, where does that leave us when the advice just doesn’t work? Let sensibility prevail and reduce your conflicts by -20% and your escalations by -50%, to help your soul.

Reduce Your Conflicts and Escalations

Angry emoji and up arrow representing conflict escalation
Action tips to help you


  • Avoid the pointless spats when you can, for your self-care’s sake. Pick your fights. It’s easier said than done. I get it. But it is so worthwhile because many are just not worth it.
    • Reduces your conflicts by 10%.
  • We all see the world differently. One of my favourite foods is Epoisses cheese. My daughter hates it. ‘Smells funny’, she says. She loves avocado – I call it green soap. She and I accept our preferences. It is possible to do some of this at work too.
    • Reduces your conflicts by 10%.
  • Be aware of your irritators because they are the cause of the escalation. Conflicts can be ok. Think Epoisses and Avocado. Yet, it is the escalation that hurts, and not because of the topic but because of the wrapper. We start using irritators with our words, like ‘ok’, which is usually used to follow someone else saying many words and then us irritating them with the shortest word possible in response. Or using a tone that is sarcastic. Or our pronunciation where we start spacing our words out. It is the irritators that turn conflicts into wars. Be aware that you are using them and try to stop using them. As my old boss once said, ‘Play the football and not the player’.
    • Reduces escalations by 50%.

Related Articles:

Conflict Resolution SkillsConflict Resolution TipsManaging Conflict in the WorkplaceTeamwork Skills Articles and Content

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