Using hypothetical scenarios, we provided participants with potential opening statements to a conflict discussion that varied on I/you language and communicated perspective. Participants rated the likelihood that the recipient of the statement would react in a defensive manner. Using I-language and communicating perspective were both found to reduce perceptions of hostility. Statements that communicated both self- and other-perspective using I-language (e.g. ‘I understand why you might feel that way, but I feel this way, so I think the situation is unfair’) were rated as the best strategy to open a conflict discussion. Simple acts of initial language use can reduce the chances that conflict discussion will descend into a downward spiral of hostility.
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