The Cycle of Destructive Conflict

Something happens – someone says or does something.

We take in what we perceived to have happened. Because we are each unique, the way we perceive something will also be unique.

Next, we make inferences and assumptions about what happened.

Then we reach a conclusion and form a belief about what happened.

(And, by the way, we do this in a matter of milliseconds.)

Then, based on our belief as to what happened and what it means, we react.

Our reaction sets up what happens next – and, from there, we repeat the process above – over and over and over. . .

How do we get off this self-perpetuating Cycle of Destructive Conflict?

We need to consider what we’re missing. . .

We know what was happening in our own heads, but do we know what the other person was thinking? How can we possibly know?

What we are missing is. . .information. The only information we have is what we are thinking and feeling. How do we get information about what the other person was thinking or feeling?


We must suspend our inferences, assumptions, and judgments and talk to the other person. And, more importantly, we must listen. This is the only way we can begin to understand the another person’s words, actions, thoughts, and feelings.

But how do we initiate communication with someone we may be angry with – or with someone we believe may be angry with us?

Stay tuned.


About Debra Healy
Conflict Consultant Specializing in Employment and Workplace Conflict Mediation/Facilitation/Conflict Coaching/Conflict Training

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