Successful individuals seem to have an inherent understanding of what causes conflicts and how to resolve them quickly.

For others, however, it's much harder.

During my 30 years in executive suites and boardrooms, I've worked with people at all levels. It's clear that the best conflict managers are often the ones who move forward fastest. Usually they employ a few common approaches to prevent potential explosions before they become major obstacles.

These tips will work in both your personal life and your professional life:

1. Ask questions - Conflict can arise due to poor communication - someone didn't say what they meant or perhaps misstated what was intended. Before you allow an escalation, ask questions. It won't cause any loss of face, and may result in a quick resolution.

2. Analyze expectations - Conflicts often develop as a result of unmet expectations on one side. If the other party expected something they didn't get, the whole conversation can become negative and closed. When a conversation seems to be getting rocky, take a step back and review together with the other person to try to uncover what just occurred.

3. Beware emotional triggers - Fear of someone or somebody, a loss of face (whether real or perceived,) unexpected anger, and surprisingly - even excitement - can all result in unintended conflict causing your interaction to go downhill.

4. Focus on halting escalation - Conflict resolutions start with one or both parties making an honest attempt at avoiding further escalation. This recognition, even if only by one of those involved, often causes a more objective review to occur.

5. Take action to control the situation - Tactics may involve separating the parties, changing the location of the discussion, signaling empathy to the other involved.

  • Commit to working it and reaching a resolution. A powerful impact occurs when one person makes this statement. It can turn down the temperature immediately.

6. Stay calm and de-escalate - This can be accomplished with a joint statement of the facts at hand. Always eliminate exaggerations, embellishments or personalities, which may inadvertently apply judgments and re-created the cycle of escalation.

In team negotiations, I see the best deal-makers discuss these and related issues with their team before going into the negotiations. Just addressing them beforehand can reduce the likelihood of a firestorm.