Conflict seems to be all around us these days, and with the growth of social media it is easy to fuel the flames of conflict whilst remaining virtually invisible as you do so. Verbal abuse and hot-headed responses are rife – quick to dish out and then delete anything you don’t like. But conflicts are more difficult to resolve without anger in a face to face situation. Or, if you are anything like me, you run and hide from face to face conflict. Being an ostrich might feel safer in the short-term, but it does not help you build resilience and inner confidence in the long-term.
Most people seem to either run like a bull full-steam ahead with their egos growing by the moment, or they shrink away, become invisible and create self-doubt. Not responding to conflict can often be incited by fear – fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of getting others off-side, fear of looking foolish, fear of not being liked. So, while the avoider generally does not want to offend or upset anyone, including themselves, the outspoken aggressor is generally not concerned about the other person with whom the conflict exists, but is instead focused on being right and being correct.
Whether it is at home, or in your workplace, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your emotional wellbeing, and ensure you treat your family members, or work colleagues, with respect when there are conflicting thoughts and ideas being bandied about. The more inner resilience you learn to build, the less the effects of someone else’s anger or judgement will have on you.
- Learn to listen to the other person. This helps them feel as though their thoughts and opinions are valid. You can use terms such as “I understand” or “I hear what you are saying”
- Ask the other person what it is about the situation that is upsetting them. Don’t be afraid to keep asking them what it is that really is bothering them until they honestly reply. This forces them to eventually start exploring their inner feelings (it may have nothing to do with you or a work issue at all)
- Don’t be afraid to state clearly that you prefer to do it this way, or that way, when you are accused of “why did you….”, and let the other person know how you feel about the issue
- Try to find some common ground. Is there any aspect of the other person’s argument that you can agree with. This helps diffuse their aggression as it forces them to see you are not the enemy
- You can also delay any response and advise the other person you require time to think about what they have said before you reply. This allows you time to gather your thoughts without getting emotional, and it allows them tome to calm down and start seeing the situation more clearly, seeing it for what it is, not a battle.
The more inner conflict we have going on in our heads, the more we portray this in our actions and deeds. By learning to still the repetitious and meaningless chatter in our minds we are able to step back from the conflict and into the present moment. Choose to dis-identify yourself from your mind and its pre-programmed responses. Take some deep breaths in and out, really focusing on your breathing. This allows to see more clearly, and you to make better choices regarding how you react and deal with any conflict you encounter.
Becoming more mindfully aware of yourself builds resilience and emotional intelligence. Listening, walking, deep breathing, drinking a cup of tea – these are easy ways to tune into yourself and become more mindful of the present moment. There is no conflict in the present moment, there is only this moment. It’s interesting how our feelings and importantly, reactions, change once we begin to be the master of our minds, rather than continuing to allow our minds to be the master of us.
“The world is in such a mess because of the continuous conflict that arises between human beings – not only between individuals but between tribes and nations and this group and that group and so on. But change can come in only when people start with themselves” Eckhart Tolle.