ONE Thing That Will Help You Deal With Conflict Better

There are so many benefits to facing conflict. It’s one of the best ways to solve problems, dispel tension, and find creative solutions. So why do we react so negatively when faced with conflict and what can we do about it?

The Amygdala Hijack.

The amygdala is a part of the brain that plays a primary role in decision making, memory processing, and emotional responses — including fear, anxiety, and aggression.

  • Heart racing
  • Shallow, fast breathing
  • Racing thoughts

Why Does Amygdala Hijacking Happen?

Conflict does not look the same as it did centuries ago. The way we work and live has changed, which means how we experience conflict has changed, too.

You have 3 choices: Fight, Flight, or Freeze

The amygdala hijack used to be a mechanism that helped keep us safe from physical threats. Now, more often than not, it gets in our way and causes us to engage in conflict in unhealthy, unproductive ways.

  • The “flight” response used to look like running back to your cave or climbing a tree to get out of reach of danger. Now, it looks like calling in sick for a week in hopes that the conflict will magically disappear by the time you come back. (Has that ever truly worked, for anyone?)
  • The “freeze” response used to look like physically freezing so that you didn’t draw attention to yourself. Now, it means delaying fight or flight — either consciously or subconsciously — to prepare for your next move. Freezing is not a bad thing, so long as it doesn’t turn into avoiding.

Ok, so now you know what the amygdala hijack is and how it affects you during conflict…but how do you un-hijack yourself when that physiological response is so overwhelming and seemingly uncontrollable in the moment?

I’m not going to lie to you — it’s going to take time and practice, but there are some incredibly helpful techniques you can employ to improve your conflict response, and I’m going to share the most helpful one with you right now, along with 3 steps you can use to start using it today.

Step 1: Make Mindfulness a Priority

I know, I know, you can’t get away from people telling you to start a mindfulness practice these days. But it’s for a good reason! Mindfulness is an incredible tool for dealing with emotionally charged situations like conflict — at home or in your personal life.

Step 2: Make ‘Progress over Perfection’ Your Mindfulness Mantra

The most important thing to remember about mindfulness is that it really just means awareness. With that in mind:

  • Train yourself to notice sights, sounds, and smells around you. This is a simple way to become more aware of your surroundings and to ground you in the present moment.
  • Always Be Breathing. Sure, you are already always breathing, but there’s a difference between involuntary breathing and breathing with the intention to raise your awareness. To practice the latter, breathe deeply from your abdomen and count your inhales and exhales. Make your exhales longer than your inhales, and slowly increase the length of each with each breath. The breath is an incredible tool that you have at your disposal — always — to help you combat feelings of anxiety, panic, pressure, or anger. So, use it.

Step 3: Use Mindfulness to De-escalate Conflict

Mindfulness will help you become more aware of what’s going on in your own mind and body during a conflict. You’ll be more readily able to say to yourself, “My breath feels really shallow, and my hands just started shaking. I feel pretty fired up right now; like I might say something I could regret later…Pretty sure my amygdala is actively being hijacked.”

Dealing with and managing conflict in healthy ways comes in many different forms, but it’s always best to start with what you can control, which is your own responses and reactions. Mindfulness is a great way to start doing exactly that.

Recognize what you’re experiencing, remove yourself from the emotionally hijacked state, revisit the situation with a more impartial lens, and (hopefully) resolve the conflict.

Workplace Conflict Coach, Trainer, and Mediator. Owner of ONE EIGHTY. To learn more, visit oneeighty.io

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