In my early 20s, I wasn’t interested in school violence prevention. I had big ideas about contributing to world peace. After serving in the Peace Corps, I worked on a Master’s in international development, focused on conflict resolution. This was in the early 90s, before “Columbine” was associated with a high school massacre. An internship in the heart of America changed my worldview.
Even the best conflict engagement professionals can be blindsided by an occasional toxic exchange. Despite how fantastic a day may start, a few harsh words can catch us off-guard, leaving us feeling defensive, angry or belittled. You can keep difficult people from bringing you down with them and poisoning your well. There are surprisingly effective strategies for bouncing back and preventing conflicts from getting the best of you.
I’ll walk you through an example from my own experience.
Most of us rely on auto-correction software, but how often do people check messages for conflict-inducing digs? You know what I mean, the ones that hit below the belt. They’re loaded with passive-aggressive undercurrents of sarcasm. They’re discounting, insulting or disrespectful. They blame or deflect responsibility. They triangulate, lack compassion, strike a nerve, etc. Even when the sender denies the intention of harm, knee-jerk messaging, particularly when sent electronically, can escalate quickly into drama and conflict, often with harmful consequences.