Conflict is about emotion.

Emotion is about meaning applied to something. When we feel strong emotions, we have positioned ourselves inside the issue at hand. Somehow we have made ourselves central to it. The “I am ” has been invested.

I remember a quote by Dale Carnegie – “People are not creatures of logic but creatures of emotion”. People respond not to what you say but to what they think you are saying means. That equation is hidden deep beneath their “reasoning engine”. Their response, if negative, is to their perception of somehow being marginalized by what you are saying. Deep inside, they feel devalued on a personal level.

That totally other – than –  conscious response is a defense mechanism – protecting their inherent sense of significance. Significance is intimately connected to identity – the “I am”.

The internal equation is something like that – “I am important therefore I am”

Significance is a universal human need.

It underlies social behaviors, decision making processes, a desire to please others, a desire to accumulate material wealth, reproduction and creating legacies. All humans are seeking validation and significance.


Conflict is different from a disagreement in a sense that disagreement is in response to logical evaluation of something, while conflict is an emotional transaction, with each party wanting to defend their position on a level of “being” right. In conflict, logic often goes out the window and emotion takes over, creating a progressively escalating reactivity.

It is useful to reduce conflict to a level of disagreement, and either create an agreement or agree to disagree, which is a logical decision.

How do you do that?

Keeping in mind, all people want to feel significant, ask yoursef a question; “How can I facilitate you feeling significant”? That question does not indicate you wanting to relinquish your position with regard to the actual issue, but to find a way to help the other feel significant regardless of their point of view. Thry will be much more willing to engage in a logical discussion with you when feeling acknowledged.

You may say, ” I understand you have that point of view (say theexact the words they said to you) and it is important to you that…” ,and I have a different opinion”.

Acknowledging them as having their opinion is already a validation of their significance as a human being in this situation. By sticking to the issue at hand and avoiding getting into “:you are wrong” and “I am right”, allows you to keep the conversation at a level of logical reasoning, and opens the door to a possible debate.

If they are upset or angry, and you totally disagree with their point of view, you can still apply the same principle.

You can  say, “I can see you are angry and you have that point of view (whatever it is)”. By acknowledging their emotional state, you are acknowledging their significance. This small shift will alleviate their level of hostility (if hostility is present) many – fold.

You may also create an alliance with them – bring them onto the same page as you are by saying – “I can see you are angry and you have that point of view, and I would like to come to some kind of an agreement, How can WE do this”? Wait for their response.

By responding to you they are acknowledging their own and your significance, and subconsciously creating and alliance with you, as you are now working on the same issue from a common point of intent.

That in itself is a powerful conflict reducer.

When you decide that you are not convinced to switch to their point of view, you have made that decision logically, and can walk away without feeling angry of dissatisfied. After all, people are entitled to having their own point of view. Are they not?