Straight Talk: Resolving Conflict

Being an adult is hard, but it’s not as hard as making irreparable decisions.

posted on September 27, 2023
olive branch

Most of the time when we are talking about tactics for dealing with violent attacks, we concern ourselves with robberies, home invasions and other assaults by criminals. What we may not consider often enough are those confrontations with acquaintances, strangers and even friends or family that aren’t as obviously problematic, but can turn violent. Simply following the news shows that these can be just as deadly.

Jeff Cooper suggested that a good way to overcome our natural fear is to push through it with anger. However, that is a good bit different than letting our anger control us. In any kind of violent encounter, one of the worst mistakes we can make is to lose our temper, because a person in a rage has real trouble thinking rationally or tactically, and that is usually what causes conflicts between friends, neighbors, family members, acquaintances or strangers to become violent.

One theory on conflict resolution suggests that, regardless of age, gender or station in life, we function in one of three modes. Those are Parent, Child and Adult. Consciously or unconsciously, we respond to arguments and conflicts in one of the three.

  Parent mode is dogmatic and condescending in nature. Often, we will adopt this approach when we can’t think of a good counterargument, so we exercise our authority. “You’ll do it because I told you to!”  People often find this approach to be insulting and offensive, to the point that the original argument is no longer as important as finding a way to strike back, either verbally or physically.

Child mode is simply akin to throwing some kind of fit. The person in the child mode sees that he or she isn’t going to get his way, so they act out. The traffic violator who thinks that arguing with the traffic cop is going to change the officer’s mind might be a good example. This is certainly a clear instance of letting one’s temper take control.

Adult mode is the place where conflict can actually be resolved. It is the mode where you honestly consider the other person’s argument and try, in a calm way, to explain your own. One tries to keep the discussion to the facts and determine if there is a middle ground that will resolve the problem.

However, to resolve a problem, all parties must be working in the Adult mode. By acting calm and reasonable, you have the best chance of getting the other person to calm down and take the same approach. This isn’t as easy as it might sound because, at the same time, you may not be going to give in to his or her demands. When you both are looking at the problem from Adult mode, resolution can usually be reached. It doesn’t work all the time, but if things are going to be worked out without further problems or escalation, this is the way it happens. Sometimes the best move is to just walk away, let tempers cool and take the matter up at a later date.

When dealing with this type of conflict, one needs to always remember that they can turn violent despite everything we might do to avoid it. You still need to be in Condition Red during the encounter, because you are faced with an actual threat and things could go south in an almighty hurry.

That doesn’t mean that we are going to pull our defensive handgun. But, we consider that it might have to happen. We do make sure that our hands are clear, and we give some thought to clearing our covering garment. It would also not be a good time to stay seated while the other person stands over you. We are conscious of what his or her hands are doing, and the possibility that they might have a weapon on their person. In other words, you are getting ready to fight if you have to; “If he does X, then I will do “Y.”

The hardest part of dealing with these types of conflicts is keeping your own temper and appearing outwardly calm and reasonable. At the same time, you are inwardly continually evaluating the conflict. “Are we making progress or is it time to walk away? Will they let me walk away?”

Over the years I spent as a peace officer, I dealt with many such conflicts. Some of them became violent and some became deadly violent. Some of those conflicts occurred over the silliest of disagreements.

Keep in mind that conflicts with people you know can turn dangerous. And when that happens, it is usually because all of the parties involved have lost their temper and are no longer thinking rationally. Keep your cool, stay outwardly calm and try to get the other person to reason with you. Failing that, walk away from it. But, in such situations, stay in Condition Red and realize that violence may not be far away.


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