Defuse the most dreadful situations with tips from these hostage experts. All relationships lovers, pals, the chick behind the counter at Starbucks, at some point involve conflict. Yet here's what's odd: In school, we learned so much; the periodic table, algebra, how to make a backing soda volcano but never how to argue. So we carry on like kids. "I'm taking my toys and going home." It leads to break-ups, bruised feelings, and ruined friendships. But there is a better way: Just ask the NYPD's Hostage Negotiation Team, which has developed a time-tested framework for dealing with conflict in any crisis. And if it can handle bomb threats and murderers, surely it can handle any dispute you might get into.

You say, "You're pissed, can we talk?" She says, "No, I'm pissed"
Don't rush to end the conflict. Be patient. Slow down. As ex-NYPD hostage negotiator Jeff Thompson cautions: "Avoid hurrying toward a resolution" it may not be the outcome you want. It's like sex: If one of you gets off fast, great. But what about the other?

You say, "Fair, I get that. Let me try to see this from your perspective." She says, "I thought we'd hang out, then you went radio silent. After dating a year, that's madding."
Show you're really listening. "People will tell you their problems if you just listen. Then you can use those insights to frame a solution," says Stanford's Margaret Neale, co-author of Getting (More of) What You Want. The best way to prove you're listening? Paraphrasing back.

You say, "So, what I did was really immature and disrespectful." She suspiciously says, "Right..."
Don't be a dick. Or, as the NYPD puts it, "Show respect." This manages the current crisis and preserves the relationship. "Most disputes are with people you know and will see again," says Neale, "so respect is critical.

You say, "I guess I'd feel the same if the tables were turned." She says, "It was pretty damn rude."
Chill, even if you're faking it. It's easy to lash out to "win" a fight even if it would be counterproductive. But stay calm and you'll have no ugly words to regret later.

You say, "I know it looks that way. Can I tell you what happened, from my perspective?" She says, "Ha, this'll be good."
Admit your motivation. "Be honest about your own interests," not just the surface argument, says Jeanne Brett, of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. If not, how can you ask anyone to be honest about theirs?"


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