Conquer Conflict At Work/Conflict Mis-Styles #7: Downplay

Friday, March 10, 2023

Conflict Mis-Styles #7: Downplay

Downplaying an issue is a passive way of reducing conflict into something less important than it really is and may include comments or actions that diminish one's own or others beliefs, feelings, desires, wants, needs, and ideas.

Conflict Resolution Mis-style: Downplay

Having difficult conversations is not something that comes naturally. Even the most skilled communicator learned along the way from trial and error, courageously trying new methods, and failing forward.

The good news is you no longer have to rely on "hopeful outcomes" because your communication can be upskilled.

Downplay is the last of a seven part series where we have been exploring common misstyles of communication in conflict.

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Downplaying an issue is a passive way of reducing conflict into something less important than it really is and may include comments or actions that diminish one's own or others beliefs, feelings, desires, wants, needs, and ideas.

Why do People Downplay Conflict?

It is often seen in two specific, but different, situations

  • ​When someone is not invested in the person or the outcomes. This may be as a result of jealousy, unrealistic expectations, indifference, or negative past experiences.
  • ​When someone is ill-equipped or feels inadequate to deal with an uncomfortable topic or personality type

In healthcare many new nurses feel under skilled when it comes to dealing with patients, family members, colleagues and other healthcare team members who are upset so they try to downplay it as a way of deescalating the tension.

The problem is the tension they are deescalating is their own discomfort around being in an uncomfortable situation.

How to Identify Someone who Downplays Conflict?

People who downplay often make statements that create doubt or minimize the impact of a situation to cover up their own discomfort or disinterest in a situation. It is a common strategy to deal with guilt and strong negative emotions.

Look for the use of words such has "merely", "only a little", or "just" to reduce an issue

You may hear statements such as:

  • ​I am sure they did not mean to hurt you
  • ​Are you sure that's right?
  • ​You should not feel/think/believe ...
  • ​Maybe things will be better tomorrow
  • ​Oh well, you did not want that promotion anyways
  • ​It's no big deal

Risks of Downplaying

Downplaying can come across as if you are not interested in helping, which is not necessarily true. Many times the downplaying is a way to avoid discomfort because you don't know how to help.

The effects, however, can increase the level of aggressive responses and escalate issues while increasing psychological stress. Over the long term, dissatisfaction with the relationship mounts and emotional distance widens.

In a healthcare setting, this can erode trust between patients and caregivers, and among team members.

Your Better Leader Moment

You may find that your natural tendency is to stop talking about your issues when you feel the other party is downplaying your concerns. Without addressing the experience, the relationship will suffer, so try these instead:

  • ​Share how their response has impacted you. For example: "I feel a little confused by your response and I worry you think I am overreacting" ... and then see where they go.
  • ​If they say that you "should" not feel a particular way, ask how they came to that understanding.
  • ​Did you notice a "just" (i.e. you are just a nurse) statement? If you feel the comments are downplaying, share how the topic is impacting you and inquire if they are the right person to seek support from.

Do you resonate with Misstyle of Downplaying?

Are you wanting to be a Better Leader and improve your communication skills?

☞☞ Book a free Complimentary Coaching Session so we can talk about your goals and how coaching / mentoring can support you.

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If you are finally ready to...

💪 breakthrough mindset blocks to have a powerful voice at the leadership table

💖 focus on what really matters in your relationships

⚡ have more time, energy, opportunities and recognition

Then I want to help you increase your Impact

DM me right now or book your free consultation now (change does not wait for you, it happens when you work on it)

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Conflict Mis-Styles #6: Right Fighter

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