Avoiding conflict through fogging Tips to defuse a potentially explosive situation

Fogging is a simple technique used to slow down a potentially unpleasant situation, give both parties 'space' and prevent the situation from escalating further.

It works by offering agreement rather than disagreement to someone acting in an aggressive manner. When someone makes an aggressive comment, they are expecting an aggressive reply (this is most people's natural response) but fogging surprises them by giving an unexpected response. It is a way of sidestepping their issue whilst retaining your viewpoint and integrity, by agreeing with some part of what they say.

For example, if someone said to you:

"You behaved pretty stupidly in that meeting. What were you thinking?"

Rather than enter conflict, you could try to fog them, by replying:

"Yes, I can see that you think it was a pretty stupid way to behave".

The word "yes" takes them by surprise, slows them down, and can reduce the tension in a potentially explosive situation. You are not agreeing that you had behaved stupidly - only that you can see that they think so.

When you are in next in a situation that could develop into serious conflict, try this technique and see just how well it works.  When done with sincerity, many times, rather than further conflict, the situation is often quickly reversed, leading to an opportunity for further, more constructive conversation.  

The technique outlined above might feel strange at first, but it is one of many simple techniques that enable calmer, productive communication between adults.  For more help on this topic, try the Communication Style Quiz in the Test Yourself section or read the material on assertive communication.

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