Emotional response to conflict
Lots of us have an emotional reaction to being in conflict. The heart starts to race, breathing shallows and blood rushes to the head. For some, the red mist descends, and they are in fight mode. This is often seen as a negative and they are told not to be ‘so emotional’. There’s a perception that when someone is considered to be controlled by their emotions, they are not rational.
But is it such a bad thing to be emotional? What happens if we accept emotions are a natural part of conflict?
It’s natural to experience an emotional reaction when dealing with an issue where you are in conflict with someone else. Surely, it would get easier to talk about the difficult issues without the added stress of feeling ashamed about our reactions?
Working with your emotions
In a great talk recently for the Harvard Programme on Negotiation on leadership, Professor Rob Wilkinson discussed emotions. He acknowledges that it’s understandable to take challenge personally, especially when you feel committed to what you’re doing. That challenge may trigger an emotional reaction. Beating yourself up about that is unlikely to help.
His advice – it’s ok to recognise that you are experiencing emotional response; human beings have survived because we have emotions. So, after accepting this is normal, what next?
There are lots of techniques that can help you to regulate your emotions – simply shifting your focus to your breath is often recommended and can be very helpful. Thinking about managing your inner chimp works for many.
If you find that your emotions are getting in the way of managing a conflict, perhaps it’s time to try something different. Conflict coaching can help you to manage your emotions and even use them to your advantage.