As a mediation and negotiation conflict resolution specialist, I know keeping emotions in check and working with others to de-escalate the conflict is essential. The following commentary presents key ideas on de-escalating yourself and others with specific techniques and concepts. A handout on de-escalation is offered and elaborated on below, and key concepts from a Forbes article are included with personal observations. Conflict is inevitable in any professional setting, and learning how to de-escalate it is essential to maintaining a positive work environment. De-escalation involves calming down a potentially volatile situation and reducing tension between parties. This commentary will outline de-escalation techniques that can be used professionally.

Understanding Conflict

Conflict can arise in many ways in a professional setting, such as differences in opinions, competing priorities, and inadequate communication. Different types of conflict include interpersonal, task-based, and role-based conflicts. Interpersonal conflicts occur between individuals, task-based conflicts arise from disagreements about the work, and role-based conflicts happen when there is a mismatch between expectations and responsibilities. Conflicts can significantly impact individuals and teams, decreasing productivity, low morale, and increased stress.

De-escalation Techniques

De-escalation techniques can be used to manage conflicts in a professional setting. The following methods can be effective:

1. Listening actively: Listening is the most crucial element associated with de-escalation. Staying calm, confident, and competent while listening to another person can go a long way toward initiating de-escalation. If you want to resolve disputes, listen.  Listening to the other party's perspective and acknowledging their feelings can help de-escalate a conflict. It is essential to show empathy, ask questions, and paraphrase to ensure that you understand their position. At this blog site are over 30 specifically titled blogs that can help you with various elements associated with listening actively.

2. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to put oneself in the other person's shoes. This technique can effectively de-escalate conflicts by helping individuals understand the other party's perspective. Pause and put yourself in their shoes. Try to see things from their perspective. This may help you shift your thinking. By assuring the other party what you have heard, summarizing key points, and sharing your emotional take on their situation, you can develop joint empathy to de-escalate the situation.

3. Assertiveness: Assertiveness involves expressing your thoughts and feelings clearly and directly while respecting the other party. Using "I" statements and avoiding blame and accusations is essential. Instead of “you screwed up,” state, “perhaps I was not clear,” to take the pressure off of the other party and instead allow both of you to find a way to focus on what we can do from here going forward.  A key element is what “we,” not “you,” will do, emphasizing the future rather than the past.

4. Problem-Solving: This technique involves identifying the root cause of the conflict and finding a mutually acceptable solution. It requires listening actively, empathy, and collaboration between parties. The Collaboration Effect Pocket Guide associated with the book, The Collaboration Effect, offers a ten-step interest-based solutions commentary to help with problem-solving. By defining the problem up front correctly, developing alternatives, determining the impact of other options, and evaluating the impacts, it may be possible to find an appropriate solution.

5. Apologizing: Apologizing can be an effective way to de-escalate a conflict. A sincere apology can help defuse the situation and show that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions. A sincere apology involves three steps.  These are (1) to state you are sorry. (2) Do not do it again. (3) Offer the other party what you can do to make it right.  This last step can be challenging, but it demonstrates that acknowledging something more than saying sorry and not doing it again is not enough. You may want to offer something to address what you are apologizing for.

 Implementing De-escalation Techniques

Implementing de-escalation techniques requires assessing the situation, choosing the most effective method, and communicating effectively. It is essential to remain calm and composed, avoid interrupting or raising your voice, and maintain eye contact and open body language. Demonstrate the five de-escalation techniques presented above.  Check out these ten steps this author offers that may de-escalate many situations.  Be aware of what triggers you, and do not let triggers take over. Instead, focus on the problem and work with the other party to address the situation.

Preventing Future Conflicts

Preventing future conflicts involves identifying potential disputes, establishing clear expectations and guidelines, and building positive relationships with coworkers. Communicating effectively, providing regular feedback, and encouraging open dialogue are important. It is not about them or you.  It is about “we” working together and making a point to communicate, affirm, and reinforce to enhance appreciation and understanding. Taking the time upfront to build authentic, genuine, connecting relationships is the key, coupled with listening actively.  Consider what has been presented here and take the first steps to de-escalate and prevent future conflicts.


In conclusion, de-escalation techniques are essential to managing conflicts professionally. Active listening, empathy, assertiveness, problem-solving, and apologizing are all effective techniques for de-escalation. It is essential to assess the situation, choose the most effective method, and communicate effectively. By preventing future conflicts, individuals and teams can maintain a positive work environment and achieve their goals. Ongoing practice and improvement in conflict management skills can help individuals become more adept at de-escalating conflicts.

What do you think? I welcome your thoughts.

Check out these links if you need assistance or want to learn more about collaboration, conflict resolution, or enhancing your Servant Manager skills.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]