Unraveling your reactions to conflict can be key to developing more productive, less escalated communication with the people you care about. It can also help you avoid getting defensive and becoming defensive. In this post, we’ll look at some proactive ways to manage your reactions to conflict so that you can stay calm and constructive when things get heated.
There are three main types of reaction to conflict: fight, flight, or freeze. Fight responses are characterized by a desire to attack or hurt the other person involved in the conflict. Flight responses involve trying to avoid or escape the conflict altogether. Freeze responses involve feeling paralyzed or unable to act in the face of conflict. Each of these reactions has its own set of consequences that can escalate the situation and make it harder to resolve the conflict constructively.
The first step to managing your reactions to conflict is to become aware of which response you tend to have in different situations. Do you tend to get defensive and try to hurt the other person? Do you try to avoid the conflict altogether? Or do you freeze up and feel unable to act? Once you’ve identified your default response, you can start to work on changing it.
One way to do this is to practice mindfulness in your everyday life. Pay attention to your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in different situations. This will help you become more aware of your reactions in the moment and give you the opportunity to choose a different response.
Another way to change your reactions to conflict is to practice assertiveness. Assertiveness means communicating your needs and wants in a clear, direct way without being aggressive or passive. It can be helpful to practice assertiveness in low-stakes situations before using it in a conflict. For example, you might practice asking a friend for help with something or saying no to a request you don’t want to fulfill.
Both mindfulness and assertiveness require effort and practice to change your default reactions to conflict. But making even small changes in how you respond can have a big impact on the outcome of the conflict. By managing your reactions, you can stay calm and constructive when things get heated and resolve the conflict more effectively.
We hope this post was helpful in beginning to understand and manage your reactions to conflict. If you would like to explore this topic further, please reach out to us or a trusted therapist. Thank you for reading!