“Take some space to reorient yourself.”
Conflicts are inevitable. As humans, we will come across a conflict no matter where we are, or who we are with. Not all conflict is bad, and there is much to be gained and learned from a conflict, and about the person you are interacting with. But its important to be able to recognize when a conflict is not going anywhere, and be able to pull out temporarily to recharge, recover, before it spirals into destruction.
This is where taking some space is critical. Sometimes a change in scenery, the removal of the element that is ‘threatening’ you (likely the person you are in conflict with), is all you need to come back to the table with a clear and logical mind. Whether we are aware of it or not, when we are thrust into an interpersonal conflict with someone, we will get defensive (if we didn’t, odds are it wouldn’t really be a conflict). Getting defensive triggers our fight/flight mechanisms, and that’s where emotions (like anger, fear etc) can play a big part. It is at this point that the conflict can become destructive, and personal blows dealt. It is at this point where the two sides are unable to ‘listen’ and ‘hear’ one another, despite their best efforts. At this stage, there is little to be gained from continuing the conflict, and a little break is a good idea.
Take a step back. Very politely tell the person that you just need a few minutes (or more depending on the circumstance) to think and reflect and regain your composure. If they insist on resolving the conflict immediately, you have to try to acknowledge that resolving the conflict IS important to you, but you just need some time to think about everything that has been said. Most importantly, you have to mean it and stay true to your word that you WILL return to resolve the conflict.
Taking a step back allows your mind to feel less threatened, clear up your mind, and allow the very chaotic emotions to become a bit more organized. In short, it diffuses the tension that prevents a healthy resolution of the conflict. Once you have unwound, ask if the other person has had a chance to unwind as well. If they have, it may be the time to come back to the drawing board, and find a solution.
Taking a break is a lesson not only in respect for yourself, and the other person, but respect for the situation and your relationship as well. The key is being able to know yourself well enough to feel when you need a break, taking the break/space to calm down, and then returning again with a fresh mind.