Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict: How to Use Targeted Questions to Control Escalation

Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict: How to Use Targeted Questions to Control Escalation
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-06-08
Unit 1Slide Deck: Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict
Unit 2Transcript: Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict
Unit 3Workbook: Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict
Unit 4Recording: Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict

We all experience conflicts, and conflict resolution is a skill that is very valuable and can be applied to all the facets of our lives. For those working in law enforcement, the frequency of encountering conflicts is significantly more and the consequences considerably graver than usual, so it only makes sense to equip them with the best conflict-resolution skills available.

This session’s instructors are Major Easton McDonald and Dr. Megan Price. Major McDonald is a certified law enforcement instructor,  and the Division Commander overseeing the Operational Support Division at the Loudoun County (VA) Sheriff’s Office and had a prolific law enforcement career serving in different capacities. He is also the President of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). Meanwhile, Dr. Price is the Founder and Director of the Center for Applied Insight Conflict Resolution (CAICR) and is an expert in the Insight Approach to conflict analysis and resolution specializing in law enforcement. She also teaches at George Mason University in Virginia, and Royal Roads University in British Columbia.

This course’s discussion expounds on how curiosity is an effective conflict-resolution strategy. Specifics include:

  • The different situations that spark conflict on the job and its consequences for someone working in law enforcement.
  • Videos that exhibit some of the common scenarios a patrol officer may face that can result in a conflict and the five elements of interaction.
  • Understanding what conflict behavior is and how it manifests.
  • The importance of digging beneath the surface of the conflict behavior to uncover the decision-making involved due to a perceived threat.
  • The concept of threat, the shapes it may take, and how it elicits a response.
  • A glimpse into what happens inside the brain as it processes a perceived threat, activates the stress response, and inhibits critical thinking.
  • Overcoming the compromised thinking that is the natural biological response to threat through curiosity.
  • How curiosity by asking questions allows individuals to examine and articulate what the threat is as well as consider their decision making and potential response or behavior.
  • The power of curiosity and asking questions in its ability to direct people’s thinking, give people voice, and prevent assumptions.
  • The three-step guide to be curious in the face of conflict by:
    • Recognizing conflict behavior and how it is linked to a pattern of decision-making to defend oneself from a perceived threat.
    • Practicing curiosity to discover the why and unpack the emotions, the threat, and the motivation to their actions.
    • Practicing active listening as a means of voice giving, understanding, and encouraging compliance.
  • Questions that cultivate curiosity and activate critical thinking that focuses on understanding an individual’s emotions, thoughts, fears, and motivations.
  • The importance of practicing the techniques to be successful in implementing them when an actual conflict arises.
  • The possible ways interactions demonstrated in the videos could’ve been improved through curiosity.
  • How asking questions can make law enforcement officers perform better in their job by urging everyone involved to slow down, offer understanding, and effectively diffuse and de-escalate a situation.
  • Remembering that one’s safety is always paramount when dealing with conflict.

Questions from the audience are about:

  • The five elements of an interaction.
  • Handling situations where the people don’t want to cooperate or engage.
  • Preventing oneself from bringing negative attitudes into potential conflicts.
  • Working with people with behavioral or mental health issues.
  • How Insight Policing training courses are conducted.
  • Utilizing curiosity in high-conflict situations such as domestic violence.
  • Resources related to interrupting the amygdala thought process.


In this session, participants will learn:

  • A framework for understanding conflict decision making
  • How curiosity can de-escalate tense encounters
  • Essential questions for handling conflict effectively


Click here to view and register for other upcoming Law Enforcement webinars on the JCH Platform.


Resources and Handouts



Additional Resources
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After the Webinar: Getting Curious in the Face of Conflict. Q&A with the Presenters
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