Surviving Conflict

              What do you think of conflict? I don’t mean physical conflict or violence; I mean verbal conflict or arguments. When I ask this question do images of torture and humiliation come up? When we imagine conflict generally speaking our mind jumps to the worst thing that could possibly happen. Another possible scenario is that our mind goes to a time when we were in a conflict and it didn’t turn out well. When we are in a conflict it often escalates into a screaming match before we know it because conflict is often passionate. When we deal with conflict our hands will sometimes become sweaty, our heart may start pounding, our heart rate increases. This is known as the fight or flight response. What about you? How do you handle conflict?

Definition of conflict:    

What is conflict? How do you view it? The way that I look at conflict is just voicing a disagreement. At its core that’s all it is. The issue comes when people are passionate and the conflict escalates from a verbal conflict to a physical one. Something that I want to point out is that I am writing about general conflict, not with someone who has a tendency to be violent. If that is the case then it is important to seek professional help and it is out of the scope of this write up. When we passionately disagree with someone it is often difficult to make it a civil conversation. How do we keep the conflict from escalating? How do we keep the conflict from becoming something that we never intended?

Strategies to deal with conflict:

The only way that I know of to keep a conversation from “Blowing up” is to keep the emotion out of it. If we work on controlling our emotions and using action as opposed to reaction (Please see Action vs. reaction) we can keep the conversation positive. If the other person is becoming argumentative we can calm them by doing several different things. We can ask them about it,” I don’t understand why I feel tensions rising”. We can lower our voice and speak calmly. When we do this the other person will generally become aware that they are talking loud. We can change the subject, or talk about the subject another way.  The final strategy that I offer is known in the customer service profession as” I statements” and “you statements”. If we are discussing punctuality and I look at my employee who just came in late and said. “You are late!” that sounds very combative and I am creating hostility. If I say, “I feel that we discussed the time for you to come in today. I see that the time is one half hour past the time that we discussed.” The employee would not feel so under attack and a dialogue would be created where an explanation could take place. Everyone has a story (please see everyone has a story). It is very important that we give a chance for the story to be told. If we took a moment to listen we might discover some things that are worth discovering. In addition to the words we speak we need to be conscious of our body language. We need to understand that the signals that we send are not always spoken. If we use body language that demonstrates that we are concerned with the other person and not defensive it could take us a long way. If we are in charge we need to make sure that our body language doesn’t come on too strong, or too weak. We can really change the direction that a conflict is going by our body language.

What if we are wrong?

If we get into a disagreement we must be willing to accept we could be wrong. We also must be willing to change our course if it happens. If we look at a conflict as nothing more than a changing of ideas then we must realize that we will learn new facts. If we learn new facts our point of view might shift. When it does there will be times when the disagreement dynamic will change. We might tell someone that we don’t like the way we have been treated for these past two weeks. For example, we feel like all that has been happening with someone we know is that everything we do is wrong, everything we say is wrong and we are tired of it. The person changes your perspective because they inform you that they just had a loved one pass away. I think most people would understand that losing a loved one would make someone a little rawer with emotions and be willing, if not eager to give some understanding. At that point an apology may be in order. Now this is just a simple example and I understand that the situation could be very much more complicated than that. Just remember this, if we are willing to stand up for it, defend it, we should be willing to change it.

Emotions and conflict

When people engage in conflict it can become difficult to keep emotions under control. If during conflict the other sees that it isn’t going the way they desire they might turn emotional. If they are emotional they might do things to make you that way also. Name calling and doing things that make you angry are common responses in conflict. This is done largely when someone feels that they are losing ground. If someone feels desperate about something they are passionate about he or she might become unpredictable. Often if the other person can keep control of his or her emotions then they will be able to calm the other, or the other will just walk away. Remember this is only a general discussion of conflict and doesn’t include violence or people who turn to violence.


I feel that it is important to understand conflict. If conflict is understood then it is possible that the knowledge will help you out a great deal. With a little knowledge on conflict this may inspire you to have that talk that you have been dreading. If we understand conflict and talk about things more then you are closer to getting just around the bend.