How To Get Calmer And Stay Connected In A Conflict

Originally published Monday, 17 September 2012.


Welcome back to our series on conflict.

In Part 1 of our series, we looked at the first key step:  take a step back.

To recap:  when we first feel angry or threatened, stepping back allows the adrenaline rush to subside. It then gives us a space to collect our thoughts.

This sets the stage for the next best step.

The next step is to use the space and create a positive, relationship-building response to the conflict at hand.

What does this mean?

Let’s look at a fictional couple: Kelly and John.  Our couple has been married for twelve years, they have two kids, and a dog.  John recently decided to get into better shape, and has enthusiastically embraced biking.  While Kelly is happy about his improved health, she notices that this means long stretches of training time on Saturdays, when she would like to have family time instead.  John feels it’s fine to see everyone when he’s back from his ride, and resents Kelly for policing his free time. (Your Highness, he mutters underneath his breath.) He can tell she isn’t fully on board, and so aims to get out of the house quickly on weekends.

It comes to a head on a recent Saturday morning. One of the kids is sick.  The house is a minor disaster. Kelly wakes up early to find John at the front door, and he mentions that he’s going on an extended training session.  He’ll be back a few hours later than usual from his ride.  Kelly has had a long busy week, and feels the steam boiling up inside.

What can she do?  (We’ll look at Kelly’s side, since this is a women’s coaching blog, after all!)

Step 1: she should step back.  She shouldn’t engage in a discussion right on the spot, because she acutely angry.  At this moment, she’s not likely to approach it in the best way.

Instead, she decides to say, “John, I feel upset. Your new schedule has a big impact on us. Can we talk about this when you get back?”

John says, Okay. Honestly, he’s pretty happy to get out the door and postpone this until later. But her tone doesn’t seem too mad.  He feels chances are good that things will go reasonably well later. Yes!

Step 2:  her next step.

She must now use the time she’s created to see things from the other person’s side.

She must genuinely begin to ask herself:  What’s this like for him?  Why has he decided to do this?  What could he be thinking about it?

She must put herself in John’s shoes.

This is not the same thing as Kelly saying: “I guess I should ignore how I feel and only pay attention to John’s side of things.”

Instead, the point of stepping back and seeing things from the other’s side is that it allows you to:

  1. Soften your heart towards their imperfections (and be as patient with them as you’d like for yourself!)
  2. Understand what may motivate them
  3. Be in a better position to connect with them, and score a win for the relationship overall.

This, again, is not the same thing as saying that you are “giving in” to the other person.  They may, in fact, be wrong!

But you aim for a mindset where you can understand and care for the other person, even when disagree with what they are doing.

That is the beginning of a greatly improved outcome for Kelly – and for you!

Next week in part 3 of the series:   how to more easily understand and see the other person’s side.

Question: when you’ve put the pause in a conflict, do you find it leads to a better outcome? 



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Dr. Ann is a M.D. who writes, speaks, and coaches.  Her mission is to empower women in life and work! Coaching With Dr. Annis syndicated on, and has been featured on BlogHer.comMichaelHyatt.comFox news, and Good Morning America.  

Copyright Dr. Ann 2012

(photo credit/Creative Commons copyright: raymaclean)