How to Intervene and Arbitrate a Heated Discussion

It happens more often than you may realize, but arguments are happening all around us. Whether they are small disagreements or heated back-and-forth mud slinging, certain personalities just don’t always mix well. Try using these steps to intervene on a heated argument and arbitrate to come to a mutual agreement.


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    Step in and separate the arguing parties. The best way for people to calm down is to get away from each other.
    • For in-person arguments, physically move your body in between the arguers and separate each person either by walls – move one person in one room and the other in another room – or by distance – move one person into another home, or take them outside/inside, away from the argument.

    • For telephone or internet arguments, “virtually” pull one person aside and start talking with them. Then pull the other one aside and talk with them.
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    Allow each party to vent their frustrations and emotions to you – not to each other. This involves becoming a listening board and having patience. Don’t try to reason with them. At this point in the argument, reasoning and logic aren’t going to work. Just allow them to vent, but still listen. Understand and know their frustration. You don’t have to agree, but understand. Venting can take minutes or even hours. But it shouldn’t take longer than a couple hours. Venting over several days isn’t really venting, it’s called stewing. Your intervention/arbitration must take less time than this.
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    Consider both arguments and try to find the neutral ground. Consider personalities and backgrounds as well as the arguments themselves.
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    Come to the bargaining table (arbitration) and talk it out. This should be done with both parties present, or at least talked with around the same time – such as over the phone or online.
    • You may find that the only solution is to allow the parties to ignore each other, but come to a mutual understanding that they should be civil to one another. If this is the case, the arguers must agree to drop the argument completely and not bring it up again…ever. “Agree to disagree” would be the appropriate, if clichéd, term for this method of arbitration. Civility is the key – so try things like shaking hands to promote some sort of unity, even if each party still completely disagrees with the other.

    • Other times, you may find that both have valid points and each party should make concessions on both sides to make everyone happy. Try to make each concession equal and balanced.

    • Rarely will you find one party completely and entirely correct. However, if that occurs, it is best to cushion your wording to the incorrect party so they understand the logic and reasoning behind the correction. Don’t make it appear that you are saying “He’s right and you’re wrong.” Show them the correct method in an understanding way, so that they mentally replace the arguments from a passionate arguer with sound advice from a good friend. On the same token, the correct party should not brag about how they are correct. They should be dealt with in a friendly, diplomatic way so they do not become overconfident or selfish.


  • Bring along a mutual friend to help you. It is best to get input from another person – two heads are better than one, but three heads makes a monster. Don’t ask too many people for advice, that’s how arguments sometimes get started in the first place!
  • Personalities are often the cause for conflict. Consider the different types of personalities when allowing them to vent and when arbitrating. Your wording should be careful and calculated to conform to their personalities. There are often several ways to say the same thing, but one way could cause additional arguing, and another could squelch the fire.
  • In the rare instance a person is completely correct, don’t admit their correctness when listening to them vent. This will only fuel their venting and anger. Continue to understand their arguments and only mention who is correct in arbitration, but don’t make a big deal of it.
  • Swearing never solves anything. There are many words in a human brain's database, and you're almost always going to be able to replace your everyday cuss word with civil language.


  • Never admit when someone is wrong! Only admit when someone is correct – try to avoid wording such as right and wrong – and only offer advice to an incorrect party. More often than not, they take the advice of a friend over the argument from an “enemy”.

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Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions