Tension can arise at any moment due to misunderstanding. Every day we encounter moments that can increase our anxiety, and sometimes it boils over. This is especially the case if the anxiety is due to interactions with others.

The problem with tense moments between two people is that it can disrupt much needed harmony. Regardless how we look at it, we rely heavily on others. If there’s no harmony, we’re less likely to complete any of our goals, as this distracts us and also hinders collaboration.

But how does one defuse tense moments when they arise? These are some tips that you can use to try settle misunderstandings.

Listen to understand

Often we don’t listen to understand. We do so to reply. This is a habit we all have, and it’s corrosive. It means that we’re not trying to understand someone’s experience from their perspective. When we do this, we often reply to outdo the other person, rather than settle the dispute diplomatically. This results in the argument getting more intense, or it being settled begrudgingly.

When you find yourself in such a situation, always try to pay attention to what’s being said. Don’t do so in order to provide a response. You’ll realise that as you get used to listening, you also feel more empowered to either continue with an argument or not. Often some arguments are very trivial, and when you listen you can detect this and walk away from the situation completely.

Avoid being condescending

This is especially the case if the other person isn’t being condescending or if you know that you’re more knowledgeable than them. Being condescending in both instances is extremely rude, and can either hurt a person’s feelings, or make them angrier. You lose in both situations especially if you interact with the person regularly.

If you’re in a situation where you know better, take the stance of someone trying to provide light to the matter. Give clear, concise information that is structured as the arguments you see in debates. You’ll see that when you actually stop being condescending, you’re more capable of structuring sound arguments, which people are prepared to listen to.

Take a break

For couples and colleagues, breaks are a good idea. We don’t mean splitting up, but leaving the situation for another time, on the same day or when things have settled.

However, you shouldn’t just ask to take a breather from the situation and remain in the same room. Your break should be physical. As in, you should actually take a stroll outside in the open where you can get much needed fresh air, and possibly a better perspective. The idea is to try calm down and recollect what was said. You’ll find that when you do so, you pick up on where an argument went amiss either from your side or theirs.

Mind your own business

When someone is dealing with a personal issue, rather ask to help when you initially notice the problem. However, try not be overbearing or nosey. When others are dealing with something emotional, they tend to also want to keep it to themselves until they want to share. If you try to push it out of them, they can become very defensive, or even aggressive.

So give them the space they need to wade through that experience. Thereafter, wait for them to tell you. If they choose not to after you’ve asked whether they need your help, leave it be. If you find that whatever it is they’re experiencing could potentially harm them, try setting time aside and take them somewhere quiet for a chat.

Know when to say no

You’d be sadly mistaken if you think tension arises from saying no all the time. It’s quite the opposite. We often say yes a lot until we suffer from emotional fatigue, which can make us lash out.

What you need to understand is that you’re not under any obligation to say yes, especially in interpersonal relationships. In fact, you have a right to say no, and must use that right regularly. This goes without saying that if you have the right to say no, then others do too. What’s more, saying no doesn’t equate to being stingy, and feeling entitled.