Keeping your cool in conflict conversation is Habit 3 of the 7 Habits of Conflict Zen®.
When you keep your cool you:
Have easier access to your good interpersonal and communications skills when you need them most. You already have many of the conflict resolution skills needed. But are you able to tap into them when you’re in the conflict groan zone?
Make it easier for the other person to want to stay in conversation with you – creating opportunity for resolution. Some problems are complex enough all on their own. Why add more reasons for the other person to walk (or run!) away?
Increase the likelihood of negotiating well on your own behalf or on behalf of others for whom you’re advocating. A balanced, centered state allows you to keep your wits about you.
Stave off post-conflict regrets caused by bad behavior, poor problem-solving or missed opportunities. Some of the pain of difficult conversations comes after they’re over, when you replay them over and over in your mind, wishing you’d taken a different approach or that the outcome had been different.
Minimize or eliminate the relational debris that high-emotion conflict leaves behind. Debris in the road makes for a bumpy ride into the future together – at home or in business.
5 great ways to keep your cool in conflict
Here are five tips for staying cool as a cucumber during heated moments. If these are new to you, don’t try to incorporate all five at once. Pick one, use it until it feels more comfortable, then incorporate another, and so on.
- Take a brain break. Take a minimum of 20 minutes to allow the emotional flooding to reside. The key here is to do something else. Don’t use the break to keep replaying the conflict conversation in your head, as that may increase the heat. Examples: Go for a walk and think about your weekend plans. Do the crossword puzzle in today’s paper. Pick something that makes your brain think about anything other than the conflict situation.
- Neutralize by naming. Naming the behavior that’s contributing to your anger can help take its power away. This is particularly true in difficult negotiations. Example: “When you said you have other candidates who would be happy to accept the job with that salary, it appeared you were suggesting you’re ready to hire someone else instead. I’d hate for a tactic tried in a difficult moment to get in the way of what could be a great partnership here. Wouldn’t you agree?”
- Set reminders. Reminding yourself of your goals can help re-stabilize you during difficult moments. Write them on 3×5 card and bring the card with you. When you feel yourself heating up, look down at your card and remind yourself what you really want from this conversation. Keep in mind, though, that your goals shouldn’t be contingent on getting the other person to do something. They should long-term: Strengthen this work relationship. Improve customer service in the department. Get a better handle on my workload.
- Identify the threat. We get angry when we perceive that something important to us is threatened, often something related to our identity. For example, we may feel angry if we believe the other person is challenging our competence, trying to control us, exclude us or question our worth. We can manage our conflict triggers by identifying the threat and reminding ourselves it’s not “all or nothing.” If a boss let’s you know that there’s a part of your job you didn’t handle well, that’s not the same as being incompetent. It means there’s probably work you do well and some you don’t do so well. Don’t get swept away.
- Create a stopper. Stoppers are mechanisms for reminding yourself to stop doing something. Stoppers might include a note you pin to your bathroom mirror, kind of a “daily reminder.” Or a spot on the back of your hand that you pinch to get your own attention. Or a meditation breathing technique you learned in yoga class. You get the idea. You’ll need to practice using this stopper a number of times before you’ll find it truly effective.
For three more ideas, visit my article, 3 simple tricks to calm down during disagreements.
Looking for even more tips, coaching and ideas for great conflict resolution at work and home? Want to bridge the gap between what you know and what you actually do during negotiations, conflict and other complex problem-solving moments? Sign up for one of my conflict resolution workshop retreats!
Conflict Zen® retreat earlybird registration
Earlybird registration rates for my March Conflict Zen® retreat in southern New Hampshire are available until Feb 26. After Feb 26, regular registration rates will apply. Learn more about the conflict resolution workshop and how to register.