Reducing conflict tension by using explanations.

Conflicts are nothing but a social construct. It sits in the mind of those who are having the dispute. Conflict is not about the objective reality of the material in question but the perception they form about it. So, the best way to deal with a conflict is by managing the perception of the people who are having the conflict. To do that there are various strategies. Here I’m going to discuss one of them. It is the strategy of giving explanation. This is a very effective way of diffusing tension in conflicts. I will look into several researches and list out different tactics one can apply while giving explanations during the conflict.

Explain the motives was altruistic rather than selfish i.e the decision was taken not for a personal gain.

Explaining that the action was derived from a legitimate motive (Eisenberg 1984)

Showing that the situation left no other choice. The chosen action is the only possibility. (Scott &Lyman 1968)

Giving a causal account by providing valid reason (Bies 1987)

Giving an excuse in a sensitive manner rather than I don’t care manner. (Greenberg 1990)

Explaining the harm was not as bad as it seems. (Baron 1990)

Demonstrate that it was an honest mistake (Pondy 1978, Grant 2021)

Focusing the attention on a shared goal or a common external enemy (Coser 1956)

Reframe that it was relatively good or not as bad as it was initially thought. (Bies 1982)

Giving sufficient information with sincere and in a credible manner. (Bies 1978)

Perceived sincerity or honesty of the account giver is important for accepting the account. (Shapiro 1991)

Impersonal factors are more effective than personal factors (Eg. Staff made a mistake vs. system error) (Sitkin et al 1993)

Explain that it was entitled to them due to certain qualities, ranking, seniority age they possess. (Izraeli 1986)


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Grant, A. “Persuading the Unpersuadable.” Harvard Business Review, 2021,

Revisions: 28-02-21
Point added: 19-03-21