It doesn’t matter why a situation happened, or whose fault it was. When a conflict becomes confrontational, there are no winners – and this is why it’s important to adopt a defusing frame of mind.

A defusing mindset is like saying to yourself: ‘I will not let this situation escalate, no matter what they do.’

Bad attitudes cause bad behaviour. Changing your attitude so that you appear to be more positive and less hostile, should improve the other person’s behaviour. You might wholeheartedly believe that this person is in the wrong, you may be unbelievably angry about something they did – but if you maintain a negative attitude, it will be visible in your behaviour, it will affect theirs – and is likely to make the situation much, much worse. Remember, YOU control YOUR attitude in these situations. Your attitude will affect your behaviours and your behaviours will affect the other person’s attitude. Positive behaviours should improve their attitude. Negative behaviours will worsen their attitude – aggression breeds aggression.

Attitude and behaviour

The following factors play a huge part in how you defuse a situation…

  • Your emotions and mood (e.g. whether you are upset, angry, or happy)
  • How you are feeling (e.g. ill, hungover, depressed or anxious)
  • Prejudices (e.g. your opinion of others based on characteristics such as skin colour, age, gender, etc)
  • Previous experiences and expectations of this person, or people like them (e.g. ‘here we go again’)
  • Friendship groups (e.g. group characteristics, attitudes and approaches)

A ‘bad’ attitude can build up over a period of time and appear when you least expect it. This is called the ‘drip-drip’ effect.

Here’s an example… You wake up late because your alarm fails to go off. You then put the last of the milk on your cereal only to discover it has gone bad. You rush for the bus, but miss it. It starts to rain, but you forgot your umbrella. As you walk to work, you get splashed by a passing vehicle. You then walk into work and one of your colleagues says: ‘You’re late.’ They then receive the full force of your frustration. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, but there’s never been a more important time to keep your emotions in check than when you are faced with conflict. Get into a defusing mindset – try to respond how you would have done if none of the above dramas had occurred.