How to Negotiate in a Confrontational Situation

Safety isn’t just about knowing what to do when something happens to you, it’s also about knowing how to avoid making a situation worse, and whether you’re at a party and fight starts up or you’re trying to discuss your final grade with a hostile professor, you’re going to want to handle the situation in the best possible way. Otherwise, you could end up getting clocked in the face, or worse, a horrible, undeserved final grade.

1.) Speak softly and move slowly. There’s a common difference between people who don’t get in fights and people that do get in fights: people that don’t get in fights have mastered the art of being non-threatening, and when you are non-threatening it means the other person has no reason to get defensive.

2.) Use “I” terms instead of “You” terms. You may have heard this suggestion before, but what does it mean? Well here’s an example: instead of saying, “You’re not making any sense,” say something like, “I can’t seem to understand what you’re saying.” Using “you” terms puts the blame on the other person, while using “I” terms shifts the problem to yourself. You’re essentially taking credit for the lack of communication, which once again makes it difficult for the other person to become defensive.

3.) Affirm their viewpoint. Acknowledging their perspective will also help to keep down their level of defensiveness. Say something to your busy professor along the lines of, “Hey, I know that you have a million things to do right now, but I’d really appreciate it if I could talk to you about my grade for a second.” And if you’re trying to keep your buddy from knocking out a random stranger at a house party, starting off your statement with, “Look, we all know that guy is a total douche but…” and then make your intelligent point.

4.) Ask open ended questions. Open ended questions give the other person a chance to express what is actually bothering them. Questions that end in yes and no aren’t going to get you anywhere. A flustered roommate probably isn’t mad at you; they probably have a lot on their mind and are taking it out on you. As soon as you get to what’s really on their mind, things will run more smoothly around the house. So instead of asking if you both should watch a movie tonight, ask them what kind of movie they’re in the mood for. Their answer should lead to further conversation.

5.) Know when to quit. Sometimes it’s just time to give up. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost the battle, necessarily, it simply means you’re avoiding making anything worse. If you’re trying to negotiate with someone and it starts becoming pretty clear that you aren’t going to be making any progress anytime soon, it might be time to call it a night. Cut your losses and if possible visit the situation at a later time.

And remember, if the situation can’t be deescalated, it’s always important to carry some sort of personal safety device, like a personal alarm or some pepper spray. Check out our store ( for even more dorm safety equipment!


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