Conflict: For Good or Evil?

We need to change the way we view conflict. Most people see it as a bad thing, as often a terrible source of stress. However, conflict simply means two different opinions or different behaviours. These differences come from a person’s varying backgrounds and upbringing. Variety is the spice of life, right?
Conflict can be used for good or evil, so to speak. If you look at it from an energy point of view:

Ruins morale, polarises groups, highlights individual differences, and in some cases can cause violence.

Highlights and clarifies important issues and forces people to look to solve them, it gets more people involved in important issues, can promote open communication, promotes authenticity, promotes cohesiveness within a group, allows for reflection post-conflict.

We have learnt how to deal with conflict with our parents and carers; some have had better role models than others.

Can you see it coming?

Before we look at my top tips for handling conflict, let’s look at some of the situations which can elicit conflict. It’s always good to see something coming so you can be prepared.

  • Frustration
  • Competition
  • Change
  • Clash of values
  • Difference in culture
  • Misinformation
  • Neurotic games

Conflict and our bodies

Part of the issue of dealing with conflict is that we have a physiological response to it which can be hard to deal with. That’s where mindfulness comes in. So let’s talk about the actual physiological response first…

When there is conflict our brain receives signals to release cortisol into our body (fight or flight response). When this happens, we may feel one or several of the following:

  • Hot faced
  • Tearful
  • Confused
  • Tongue-tied
  • Sweaty
  • Heart racing

These symptoms are sure fire signs you have cortisol coursing through your body. This is unpleasant and makes dealing in a coherent way virtually impossible. Situations are far more likely to spiral out of control

What to do

So when conflict arises and you begin with these physiological responses, rather than shutting down or ranting like a loony try this instead:

Slow Rhythmic Breathing

Slow rhythmic breathing stops the production of cortisol and norepinephrine flooding your body and allows you to think and speak clearly. Much more useful in conflict!

Before Speaking Ask Yourself:

Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it helpful?

These three gates will help you to prevent escalation of the conflict.

Listen to Hear

Listen to the other person to hear their perspective. Don’t listen to reply or listen for ammunition. By properly listening to them you may clearly hear a compromise that can easily be reached.

Respond With Compassion

When people feel they’ve been heard and their voice matters they are much easier to deal with. They feel respected and are more likely to respect you.

Worst Case Scenario

You may need to give someone some time. Rather than walking away, state kindly that you are going to give them some breathing space and the issue can be talked about at a later date.

Now, these steps are not fool-proof, there is common sense to be applied and willpower to get through even the first step. That really is the hardest part, having the willpower to stop and breath. When you do, you switch from being reactive to proactive and you are much more likely to succeed in conflict management. So go ahead! Next time you feel the rage, slow rhythmic breathing and follow the steps like the amazing person you are!

For more training on dealing with conflict, difficult emotions and setting boundaries join my online mindfulness course here

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