One thing we have in common is that we all have experienced at least one dispute or disagreement in our lives. Do you remember how you felt or how you dealt with the situation?
Maybe someone made you angry. Maybe you were angry, disappointed or frustrated with someone. Sometimes people feel a fire burning within them when this happens. Some people don’t know how to deal with that feeling so they prefer to act as if it is not there. They suppress what they are feeling. In this article you will learn about four ways people deal with conflict & how you can deal with disputes or disagreements in a healthy way.
Why do we feel these “negative” emotions like anger?
It is not that these emotions are negative. Emotions are emotions. It is we who attach the label of negative or positive to them, because some emotions make us feel better than others. And we don’t like to feel bad. But why do we have these emotions that feel uncomfortable?
We all know that feeling emotions is what makes us human. Plenty of research has been done underlining the fact that emotions are universal. They have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Emotions also have functions. When we are scared, it makes us more alert of our environment and more aware of the potential dangers around us. When you are angry, your whole body prepares itself to defend, protect or to keep safe.
Emotions have a message for us
Every emotion we feel has a message for us. When we feel a “negative” emotion, it actually tells us where there is a personal boundary that has been crossed. We all have limits and there is only so much we can take. Everyone is different, which means everyone has different boundaries. What crosses my boundary, might be something that isn’t a problem for you at all. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult for one another to understand why something is a problem or important for the other person. We don’t live in each other's heads, so it’s crucial to communicate and to try to understand the other person and to respect what’s important to her/him.
By understanding what boundary has been crossed, you get to know yourself better. It is easier to understand what your values are, what’s important to you, where you want to hold the line, how you want to feel, and how you want other people to treat you.
4 common ways people deal with conflict
Once two or more people begin to feel “negative” emotions towards one another, a kind of tension arises in the relationship. This is the start of a conflict. A lot of times a conflict starts when a person wants the other person to say or do something, but the other person is not doing or saying it.
There are a lot of different ways we can deal with tension and conflict. Mostly, the way we react or respond to conflict has to do with what we saw growing up or how we were raised. ‘Uncomfortable’ emotions bring up feelings of potential danger. Therefore, it is very natural to react with the flight, fight, freeze or fawn response.
1. Fight response
A common fight response that we all know, have seen from movies or heard in stories, is that someone can’t control him/herself and becomes aggressive.
The emotion boils within the person & the whole body reacts. The fighting response can be physical and violent. It can also be verbal. A lot of people become verbally aggressive by saying things they actually don’t mean. We fight towards what we ‘perceive as danger’ or confrontational.
2. Flight response
Another way we deal with conflict or these uncomfortable emotions is that we run away from them. Maybe we literally run away to someone or somewhere else. But it can also be that we are running away by avoiding the person, exercising, working, going out, consuming more alcohol, gaming, shopping or being involved in other distractions. As long as we don’t need to deal with the very thing we are feeling. We run away from what we feel. We flee away from what we ‘perceive as danger’ or confrontational. By doing this, we suppress a lot of our anger or uncomfortable emotions and it keeps on dwelling in our bodies.
3. Freeze response
People who revert to the freeze response don’t know how to respond to anger or confrontation. The body and the mind can literally ‘freeze’. People who turn to the freeze response don’t really know what to say or how to respond or what to do. The whole situation is overwhelming and because of that, the ‘perceived danger’ freezes them which makes them unable to act or move.
4. Fawn response
There is another - less known - response: the fawn response. People who have this type of response are the ones who try to please the other person/party. They try to avoid conflict by agreeing or being helpful, meanwhile they forget their own boundaries or needs. They try to keep the peace as much as possible, but forget to take care of themselves in the process.
The way you react in a conflict has to do with your childhood
Some people have the same way of dealing with conflicts. Other people can react differently in different situations or with different people. It is interesting to observe yourself and to get to know how you mostly react.
An interesting question to ask yourself is: “How did I react as a child in times of conflict to keep myself safe?”.
Were you allowed to be angry? Were you allowed to show your emotions? Did you need to take the adults' behavior into account? Was there violence or abuse? Were there safe adults around? Did you see mature conversations between adults around you? A lot of the answers to these questions will give you more insight into what conflict response you have and why.
How to deal with conflict?
When two people are embroiled in a conflict, they may have a different or same way of dealing with the situation. This can mean fireworks or silent treatments or push/pull dynamics. If both parties have insight into their own conflict response, that can help a lot! The other important thing is to learn to regulate your emotions so you can handle conflicts in a more mature way. The problem is that, when we are hurt, our inner child - with all its pain - comes to the forefront and a lot of times this child is unable to act in a mature way. If you have a conflict with your child, it might be an extra confrontation when your own inner child is coming up in relationship to them.
So, what to do when you find yourself in a conflict with someone else?
The best thing to do when you feel an uncomfortable emotion towards someone is to take time for yourself, to check in with yourself and to allow your emotion to come to the forefront. Do whatever you need to give these emotions some space (as long as you don’t hurt anyone). There is nothing wrong with feeling what you feel. We suppress our emotions too much. They are just coming to the forefront so that they can be felt, acknowledged and released. It is also possible there is an old pain asking to be healed, which means more profound healing work is needed. Anyway, giving them space can be very healing and already half of the work to solve the conflict. It doesn’t really help to try to solve a conflict when both parties are still in a fully charged emotion state.
Once you have given yourself some time, it is interesting to explore your inner world by asking: Why do I feel this way? What was the thing I didn’t like? Which boundary has been crossed? How would I like it to be? What is important for me to communicate?
3. Once this is clear in your own head and you feel the other person is also ready, you can have a conversation with the other person. You have every right to express what your needs are. In a healthy relationship you need to be able to listen to one another and to find a way to go forward. This means, you also need to listen to what is going on for the other person and take that person into account.
I know a lot of things written down here are always easier said than done. Every situation is different and we are human beings; we can be complicated. It can be very difficult to understand one another. Or to find your way when you are feeling resentment towards someone or when you are in a conflict. You are not alone in this, we all have felt this before or are feeling this. That is part of being a human being on this beautiful planet. Give yourself some time.
How do you react when you are in a conflict with someone?
How do you deal with conflicts?
Leave a comment or send me an e-mail ! Always happy to hear from you.
If you are currently in a conflict with someone and you don’t know how to go forward… maybe you are in a conflict with your partner and you don’t have the money or motivation to go to a relationship therapist… I have created something a conflict resolution ceremony for you !
Sending so much love & blessings & harmony your way!!! X Ama