20 Ways To Escalate Conflicts

As humans it seems like we have a talent for escalating conflicts. We just naturally know what to do to make conversations go worse. The more we try to dig ourselves out of hole we’ve created for ourselves, the deeper we seem to dig. 

Yet, most of us prefer to avoid conflict. It makes me think that we often act in ways that are contrary to our intentions. Here is a list of things we tend to do that escalate conflicts. You might recognise some things that you do in this list. My hope is that this list can help us be more intentional about how to act (or how not to act) in high stakes conversations. 

On the other hand, if you do enjoy conflict…well, then this list will get you off to a great start.

  1. Believe everyone is out to get you
  2. Blame the other person for everything.
  3. Find the hidden personal attack in every statement the other person makes
  4. If you’re losing the argument storm out of the room 
  5. Speak louder
  6. Use sarcasm
  7. Interrupt when the other person is talking
  8. Always say the first thing in your head
  9. You are always right 
  10. Vent your anger at the person
  11. Keep track of past offences and bring them up whenever possible
  12. Make value judgements instead of making observations
  13. The other person’s story doesn’t matter
  14. Remember that you are more important than the other person
  15. Never say sorry. 
  16. Ask loaded questions
  17. Assume you know everything
  18. Never miss an opportunity to make an underhanded comment
  19. Make sure any apologies include the word “but”
  20. Deny any statement that makes you look bad, whether it is true or not

About the author

Divan Gradwell is co-host and producer of the Candour Communication Podcast where we discuss interpersonal communication and all the human stuff that gets in the way.