When a difficult conversation rattles you, using a centering question can help you get your balance back. Here are favorite centering questions I share with my clients, along with guidelines for developing your own.
Self-mastery in conflict situations
The best conflict resolution and communication skills in the world can't help if we can't access them when we need them most. Self-mastery is about being able to think clearly, respond nimbly, and maintain our equilibrium in the face of difficult and stressful interactions. The following articles offer self-mastery insights from my 20+ years in the field as a mediator and the latest research from psychology, neuroscience and related fields. Use them in your own quest for self-mastery and for helping others.
What we believe about anger has an impact on what happens during emotionally charged conflict. Relief from the suffering of conflict can come from them changing how they act on their anger, of course. And it can also come from us changing how we think about anger.
When we feel overwhelmed by a difficult conversation, we can get emotionally swamped and lose access to our good conflict resolution, communication, and problem-solving skills. Here are four quick techniques you can use when conflict muddles your thinking and you want your good skills back.
Pressure-filled situations like difficult conversations tax our working memory. That’s bad news, since working memory is crucial for reasoning, concentration, and understanding. But here’s the good news: There’s a specific type of brief writing activity that can both reduce anxiety about and boost performance under pressure.
Sometimes the best fix for behavior problems isn’t to address the behavior itself. Sometimes the most effective solution is to change the situation. Situation problems can cause behavior problems, and unless you know how to tell the difference, you can waste a whole lot of energy trying to get someone to change.
One reason conflict can undermine self-control is that stress compromises our brains’ emotion-regulation circuitry. But all is not lost when we’ve been emotionally hijacked. Recent research offers a new tool for regaining self-control soon after the stress of an argument: Briefly reminiscing about a happy memory.
When someone is upset, one familiar response is to ignore it and forge ahead. Another is to try to make them feel better with kind reassurance. Both of these approaches are a version of “make it go away.” There’s a third, more fruitful approach: Help them delve into it.
When someone is emotionally swamped by anger, it can be helpful to redirect them temporarily away from their feelings and engage their cognitive capacities. The following invitation helps de-escalate anger particularly well and deserves a permanent home in your conflict resolution toolbox.