Two common misconceptions about conflict:

1. The way you ‘do’ conflict is always the same, and

2. You should try to negotiate a win-win solution in every situation.

The truth is, people can develop a whole repertoire of conflict strategies and deploy them as the situation warrants. And there are definitely situations in which trying to find win-win solutions is not a good plan. Some examples:

  • Someone is in imminent danger

If the house is on fire, you’re at the window, and your roommate is afraid to jump, don’t try to talk them into it, just give ‘em a push. Then jump! This is an extreme version of taking a shortcut to a win-win outcome when time is of the essence. Also known as ‘leadership’—but don’t overuse it. That’s called ‘taking over’, or being bossy.

  • Someone is under the influence

If the other person (or you, or both of you) is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will likely not be able to reason or control their emotions and impulses well. This is progressive, so the discussion that started on the first drink may become an argument on the second and turn into a fight on the third. In general, don’t mix alcohol or other drugs with conflict. And don’t drive home! Just go to sleep and try to solve it in the morning.

  • Someone is being mean, or is a bully

This person is not going to consider your feelings and needs. They might pretend to, or they  may just get mad and make all kinds of idiotic accusations. Just stay away from these people, or if you can’t (it’s your teenager on a bad day), Conflict Coach offers ideas for how to de-escalate (based on Doug Noll’s De-escalate) or hold your ground (based on Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner’s book, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand—the title says it all!).

  • Someone is trying to reel you in

You may be getting riled up and pulled into an argument when you don’t really care about the actual issue. Duh—step away from that trap!

The important point here is, you have a choice. Catch yourself, think for a minute, then choose your conflict strategy wisely.