Conflict is inevitable.
No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we all become entangled by conflict in our personal and professional lives.
In the workplace, clashes with coworkers might erupt because of disagreement on strategy, interpersonal friction, mishandled responsibilities, etc.
Even with family and friends, conflicts will arise from time to time. It doesn’t matter how different or similar we think we are.
Typical reactions to conflict include ignoring it, complaining to others, and reacting without thinking. I’ve learned firsthand that none of these produce effective results.
Instead, we want to master the practice of feeling and finding CALM.
So, how can we do that when caught in the heated emotions of conflict?
First, we want to become aware that we’ve been provoked. Instead of lashing out reactively, we want to pause long enough to notice how we feel and have the willingness to experience it. If we ignore or suppress the feeling, it will intensify. What we resist persists.
In that moment of pause, we can turn our attention to our breath, and take a few soothing inhales and exhales. This will help re-establish a feeling of clarity.
We can acknowledge the feeling of hurt then recognize that we are the creators of our emotions and choose to respond with purpose versus reacting out of fear. Choosing to take responsibility puts us at the affect of our lives rather than at the effect of our circumstances.
With our breath, we have a moment to restore psychological calm. Instead of feeding into intense emotions and escalating the situation, we’re able to think, listen, and handle things with a level head.
Now we’re ready to take a CALM approach:
- Clarify the Issue: Most of us do not take the time to back off and analyze why the conflict occurred, and what we desire as a resolution. Before we address the other person, we need to ask ourselves a series of questions. What am I upset about? Have I contributed to the problem? If I was the other person, how would I want to be approached and dealt with?
- Address the Problem: Find a safe space, time, and place to have an open, two-way discussion with the other person involved.
- Listen to the Other Side: There’s a great principle created by the late Stephen Covey which can help us remain mindful in the face of conflict. It goes: seek first to understand then to be understood. Often our instinct is to defend ourselves and prove our point, but when we force our opinions, while others force theirs everyone feels unheard and conflict escalates.
- Manage Your Way to Resolution: This step involves gaining agreement about the nature of the conflict, as well as the steps to be taken by both parties to resolve it.
When we sincerely listen before weighing in, we extend respect to the other side. This helps dissolve heated emotions. We create an opportunity for dialogue, where everyone involved can calmly share how they feel, ask questions of each other, and find a resolution. Everyone wins when conflicts are resolved conflicts in a cooperative and respectful manner.
When we face conflict mindfully, periodic scrapes don’t descend into chronic wounds. So do your best to approach discord with mindful awareness. Mastering the practice of feeling and finding calm offers a chance for anger to soften, clarity to surface, and resolutions to emerge.