How do you handle conflict?
The ways that we react to conflict can either help alleviate or add to an already stressful situation, particularly if our reaction is not true to how we actually feel Some people find it harder than others to be open and forthright about their feelings. If you are worried, do you bottle it up? Do you repress your real feelings of anger, disappointment or frustration? Do you lash out and then regret it later? If any of this describes you, this exercise may help.
Exercise – Re-evaluate how you deal with conflicts
- Think of a personal or professional situation when you disagreed with someone else
- Think about how you felt, physically and emotionally and write it down.
- Next, consider how you actually reacted to the situation. What did you do or say, if anything? How did you say it?
- Was this reaction at odds with how you were actually feeling?
- How did you feel afterwards?
- Did your reaction improve the situation or worsen it?
- Take a few moments to reflect before reading on.
People generally benefit from being honest about their feelings, rather than carrying the weight of frustration or disappointment on their own. However, we often tend to react in two equally unhelpful ways. Firstly, concerns about potential conflict and negative repercussions can result in a situation where we avoid the topic altogether. Alternatively, knee-jerk reactions might come off aggressive (or passive aggressive), and this can escalate the situation, causing more stress for all parties.
Putting it to practice
Being aware of your feelings is the first step. Less tension between your inner feelings and thoughts and your reactions can help as well. Here are some tips to help you express your feelings in a way that is both honest and productive:
- If you are bothered by someone’s behaviour, think about how ways that you can approach them in a respective manner. Think about finding the right time and place, and make sure that you have had time to cool off
- Explain what you feel and acknowledge where you may be interpreting their actions in a hurtful way. Remember that they may not have intended it to come off negatively
- Avoid attacking the other person’s self-esteem so that he or she does not become defensive.
- Let the person know if you want to talk “first” or finish a thought, but also assure them you will give them a chance to speak
- Do not pile on several accusations at one time, give the person a chance to respond so they do not feel attacked
It can be difficult to communicate in this way, but with time and practice it will become easier to express difficult feelings in a manner that is both productive and respectful. This can both help to relieve stress and also look at human interaction in a more nuanced way.
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