The Dfuse Approach to Defusing Conflict


Defusing conflict requires at least one person to take action to prevent conflict escalating or to de-escalate situations which have already become destructive, confrontational or aggressive. The Dfuse approach involves a process of understanding situations, self reflection, considering response options, building trust and communicating to influence the outcome of the situation. Each aspect of the approach is briefly introduced below:

Dfuse Approach

1. Don’t do or say what comes spontaneously

Spontaneous responses are often driven by anger or fear which can escalate a conflict situation. Consciously control your immediate reactions by managing your emotions. Take a step back, think before you act, rehearse difficult situations you are likely to face so they don’t take you by surprise.

2. Adopt a defusing mind-set

It doesn’t matter why a situation happened, or whose fault it was. When a conflict becomes confrontational, there are no winners – and this is why it’s important to adopt a defusing frame of mind. This is like saying to yourself: ‘I will not let this situation escalate, no matter what they do.’ Be non-judgemental, don’t make it personal, be prepared to listen and make sure that communication is effective.

3. Assess the situation

Ask yourself: what are the risks? Are those involved likely to be reasonable, or are they highly anxious? How many conflicts are there and which is most important? Is the conflict about a misunderstanding, about wanting different things, or is it driven by emotions? Ask yourself why. Why here? Why now?

4. Choose the outcome you want

Decide how you would like the situation to end. Perhaps: get away safely; reduce aggression; or negotiate a good deal. Avoid doing anything that will reduce your chances of getting what you want, and don’t get angry if you are provoked. Remember to check whether what you want is actually necessary and achievable.

5. Choose a safe response

If at any point you feel that you are at risk of violence or harm, your priority is to get to safety – or reduce the risk. If you decide you can manage the situation yourself then, after managing the risk, your priority is to reduce any anxiety to restore rational thinking. Then listen to understand the complexity and, finally, resolve any issues if possible at this point.