A participant in one of my webinars asked: "Is there any way to resolve conflict if you have two 'escalating' personalities trying to solve a problem? In other words, how do you resolve conflict between two very strong willed, always-right personalities, who tend to escalate with every attempt at solving conflict?"
There is a hard and fast rule about resolving conflict that most people find hard to remember: You cannot resolve conflict unless both people are open to learning.
As long as each person is trying to be right, win, or at least not lose, no new learning can take place. Conflict resolves when new learning occurs due to both people being open to learning about themselves and each other.
What to do When the Conflict is Escalating
It is actually not hard to stop conflicts from escalating; the challenge is remembering to do it. This is hard to remember because, in conflict, often the fight or flight mechanism is activated. If both people involved tend to fight rather than flee, they will generally go on automatic pilot to win.
When the stress response - the fight or flight mechanism - is activated, blood leaves the brain and goes into the arms and legs to enhance the ability to fight or flee You stop thinking well when your focus is on winning the fight. You are likely to say and do things that you would not ordinarily say or do - which, of course, escalates the fight.
What to do?
What you need to remember to do is to disengage the moment the fight starts to escalate. If you wait too long, you will be in the throes of the stress response. Once your amygdala - the survival part of the brain that activates fight or flight - takes over, it is VERY hard to stop. You both are like runaway trains, trying everything you can to win or not lose. That’s when things can get very ugly.
If you disengage the moment the fight starts to escalate, then you can cool off, get your brain back online, and do an Inner Bonding process to see what has gotten triggered in you. You can move into compassion for yourself, make sure you are not taking the other person's words and behavior personally, allow your sadness, loneliness, heartache and helplessness over the other person's behavior to move through you, and then address what is really going on with you. Why do you need to win? What are you trying to control? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to avoid? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself during your Inner Bonding process.
When to Resolve the Conflict