How to deal with conflict

As a species, humans are survivors. We’ve learned over thousands of years how to react to danger in order to live another day. Because of this we’ve developed some core instincts when faced with stressful situations: fight, flight and freeze.

We learned to fight against those who were trying to hurt us.

We learned to flee from animals that were trying to eat us.

We learned to freeze in order to avoid stepping on a venomous snake hidden in the grass.

These responses used to serve us well. However, modern day humans are rarely in stressful situations where these benefit us.

When you look at our workplaces where we often encounter conflict and stress, none of these instincts will lead to a positive result.

When someone criticizes our work, we should not yell at or hit them.

When someone has a different opinion than ours on a project, we should not flee from their words.

When someone is angry at what is happening and directs it towards us, doing nothing will not help the situation.

We need to work on a new response to the stresses we face in our lives – both at work and home. To stay in line with the three F’s, I’m suggesting Feel.

When confronted with conflict, take a moment to do two things:

1. Identify how the situation is affecting you and why

2. Try to relate and empathize with the other person

When we can understand why we are feeling the way we are, often we can handle situations in a more constructive manner, and when we can try to relate to the other person, we can usually find ways to deescalate situations, learn from them, and collaborate towards a solution that benefits everyone.