Tense nervous conflict – Take these and call in the morning
“I hate conflict”, the words spoken by many afraid of communicating their own opinion. Almost inevitably we come away from conversations and discussions feeling that we could have done better. There is a sense that if we tackle the issue others will get mad at us and it will end in a shouting match. Perhaps we won’t be able to handle it and we will become frozen unable to speak or get our point across. Perhaps if we tackle our fears about conflict we might understand how to approach it better and feel that we are tackling the issues.
It’s worth thinking about conflicts for a moment. Sometimes it will not be worthwhile engaging. Occasionally you will encounter those who are not interested in a discussion or debate but can only see themselves as right. So you may wish to evaluate how this relationship makes you feel. Similarly some discussions are just not worth having because the outcome simply has no long term impact on you.
Yet where an issue is important to you or you feel that someone has made a serious error that you perhaps want to take issue with, there are some important steps you may wish to consider to allow you to challenge them while keeping your own anxiety at bay.
Conflict does not have to be about shouting and anger. Try to hear what the other person is saying and hear what is going on behind any attack. Try to acknowledge the other person’s emotions and notice where you agree with each other. Avoid telling the other person what they should do. Try to be understanding and avoid the temptation to attack or make unhelpful personal remarks. It is useful to stick to facts and behaviours, even when others will not.
It’s worth trying to get an understanding that you are interested in a solution, not in winning. Sometimes when working together you can come up with options that didn’t occur before.
The single thing that de-rails the process most often is anger. The emotions become heightened and boil over. Often though, anger masks fear or upset, especially in conflict situations, so it can be worth checking out what the other person is worried about. It may be that some simple reassurance can get your discussion back on track. It is also important to acknowledge where you agree and where either of you have changed your opinion - this lowers tension and sends out signals that you are closing on a mutually acceptable solution.
In reality conflict is going to be part of all of our lives. We can try to sweep the problems under the carpet, but it only works for a limited time, then we become unhappy. Learning how to deal with conflict as a way to improve your relationships and lower your anxiety levels is an important life skill. Surprisingly you don’t need to make many changes to become better at dealing with conflict.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.