How to deal with conflict

The DESC technique was developed by Sharon Anthony Bower, author of Asserting Yourself as a method for solving interpersonal conflict. Here’s how it works:



  1. Describe the other person's behavior objectively
  2. Use concrete terms
  3. Describe a specific time, place, action
  4. Describe the behavior not the “motive”


  1. Let your emotional reaction drive the conversation
  2. Use abstract, vague terms
  3. Generalize for all time
  4. Guess motives or goals



  1. Express your feelings
  2. Expressed them calmly
  3. State feelings in a positive manner as relating to a goal to be achieved
  4. Direct yourself to the specific offending behavior, not to the whole person


  1. Deny your feelings
  2. Unleash emotional outbursts
  3. State feelings negatively, making them put-down our attack
  4. Attack the entire character the person



  1. Ask explicitly for change in your downer’s behavior
  2. Request a small change
  3. Request only one or two changes at one time
  4. Specify the concrete actions you want to see stopped, and those you want to see performed
  5. Take account of whether your downer can meet your request without suffering large losses


             (if appropriate--what behavior you are willing to change to make the agreement)


  1. Merely imply that you’d like a change
  2. Ask for two large a change
  3. Ask for too many changes
  4. Ask for changes in nebulous traits or qualities
  5. Ignore your downers needs or ask only for your satisfaction
  6. Consider that only your downer has to change



  1. Make the consequences explicit
  2. Give a positive reward for change in the desired direction
  3. Select something that is desirable and reinforcing to your downer
  4. Select a reward that is big enough to maintain the behavior change
  5. Select a punishment of a magnitude that “fits the crime” of refusing to change behavior
  6. Select punishment that you are actually willing to carry out


  1. Be ashamed to talk about rewards and penalties
  2. Give only punishments for lack of change
  3. Select something that only you might find rewarding
  4. Offer a reward you can't or won't deliver
  5. Make exaggerated threats
  6. Use unrealistic threats or self-defeating punishment