Conflict First Aid 1: Protect what is important

As well as being a mediator, I teach and write about conflict first aid. What’s that? Well, it is like medical first aid–simple steps that anyone can do to help a person in a bad situation. The aims of medical first aid are to preserve life, prevent harm and promote recovery. The aims of conflict first aid are to protect what is important, prevent harm and restore relationships.

Protect what is important Conflict First Aid

Why Conflict First Aid is Important

No one likes to admit they have a conflict, so they ignore it or muddle through. And most of the time, things get worse. They may try and solve it themselves, and because trust is lacking, it doesn’t really work. By the time I am called in, people have often struggled for months if not years and relationships have broken down. At the end of most mediations, someone will say to me “I wish we had had this conversation months ago. We would have saved so much pain/time/money”.

And while I don’t want to make myself totally redundant, I hate seeing people suffer needlessly. I want people to learn how to have better relationships and address unmet needs in more productive ways. So I wrote a book called Conflict First Aid: How to stop personality clashes and disputes from damaging you or your organisation. But just in case you don’t have time to read the whole book….

Three tips for protecting what is important


No matter how irritating the situation, how urgent it seems, pausing for a moment to reflect always pays off. When we feel threatened or angry, the logical bit of our brain gets switched off, and animal instincts take over. Sometimes that works. More often that makes everyone else feel angry or threatened and pretty soon the situation gets a lot worse. So best advice ever…when conflict or threat or hurt arise, pause. Take a couple of slow deep breaths and think what just happened there? What is the most important thing that I need to protect? Download A6 Pause Tool   if you need a reminder and try it next time problems strike. If you give yourself a moment, you can choose your response.

The Power of Maybe

We spend a lot of time imagining the bad things that could happen, or the evil intentions of others. Maybe we are right–but maybe we are wrong. Before reacting, ask if your reading of the situation is the only possible one. Do you have all the facts? Why might a sane reasonable person behave that way? Maybe the person is from another culture? Maybe they don’t know what you know. Maybe they are in so much pain that they cannot see your needs.

We tend to judge others by their behaviour and ourselves by our intentions.
Albert Schlider

The Gift of Maybe by Allison Carmen suggests thinking of the positive maybes rather than the negative ones.

Assess the Risk

In an emergency, a cool head and a realistic risk assessment are essential. All first aid instructors stress the importance of ensuring that the danger to life is reduced first. So too in conflict situations, assess the situation realistically. Sometimes you may choose to stay silent, at others it is better to speak up.  Calm yourself and objectively work out the best option A4 Risk Assessment will give you some ideas.

More on relationships…

If you have a particular issue you would like to discuss, contact me for a confidential 15-minute exploration of your options.

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