Our conflicts with other people can stir up all sorts of emotions. Resolving these interpersonal conflicts requires that we navigate our own emotional turmoil. In these types of complex situations, our emotional responses can be mixed. We can feel anger mixed with caution, resentment mixed with regret, impatience mixed with understanding. So how do we work with our emotions, and move towards what’ll help us resolve a conflict?
Look at Yourself First
Conflict is one of those situations where you can feel compelled to look at the other person first. After all, they’re the one “causing the problems”! But it’s not as simple as figuring out who’s at fault. In the life’s complexities, settling a conflict to deep satisfaction is more nuanced than labeling who is guilty or innocent. Our rage, our self-righteousness, and even our sadness, may not be settled by such a simple outcome.
In order to address how we feel in a conflict, we must address our feelings. A conflict with another can cause turmoil within, and it is indeed this turmoil that pushes us towards resolution. Ultimately, we want to feel better.
A situation where we’re in conflict with someone else, though, can evoke a lot of complicated responses. There are unknowns in the other person’s motives. They might trigger our sensitivities and bring up strong feelings. The choices we consider, to find resolution, might fill us with fear, and we might be unable to act. On top of it, we might love the other person and that itself might cause us doubt ourselves.
This type of complex situation requires a nuanced approach. And yes, we could talk to or confront the other person right away. But even then, the outcome depends a lot upon the approach. Good approaches must be crafted within, and they must resonate with our selves. Through careful listening to our feelings and working with them, we can make powerful, effective choices in these kinds of situations.
Our Emotional Reality
Each emotion can push us to act. Yet, if we act too soon, the results can feel terrible. If we act in anger, we might end up saying things we regret. If we act in fear, we might let others step over our boundaries.
Now, positive emotions can also be harmful to react to. If we only act from compassionate desire to understand, we may neglect our own interests and prolong the conflict. If we only act from hopefulness, we might dismiss the other’s concerns and actually escalate things.
Only when we consider all our emotions and their interests can we find a balanced solution. We want to find a way to engage that is healthy and giving, yet also assertive, courageous, and communicative. The starting point is our own emotional awareness.
Consider Your Own Conflict
Think of a situation in your life where you have a conflict with another individual. Maybe they get on your nerves, or maybe there’s a more overt conflict between you both.
What is the first feeling that comes up? Hold it in your awareness while you feel it intensely, taking no action.
Then, consider a second feeling, and a third and so on, feeling each.
It might help to write down your feelings, maybe elaborate as to why you feel those things. How are those feelings in conflict with each other?
One of the main difficulties of resolving interpersonal conflicts is when we get stuck in one particular feeling or another. A singular perspective like this, blown out of proportion, can obstruct your ability to find true resolution. We can get stuck, feel powerless, and imagine that the resolution is only in someone else’s hands. When we do that, we can feel self-righteous and justified in our blame. But it’s important to recognize that, through blame, we are actually putting ourselves in a disempowered position. Self-righteousness is not empowerment – it’s an indication of the exact opposite.
The dis-empowering nature of single-mindedness is why it’s important to cultivate an attitude of being mindful of the complex nature of our feelings. When we look for resources inside our feelings, we open up pathways that, otherwise, we might not have seen.
But let’s say you bring all your feelings to the surface, feel them, and look at why you feel those ways – what if it still seems unworkable? All these considerations might sometimes leave you feeling like you’re no closer to any new choices, and you might end up feeling rotten and like you can’t do anything about the situation.
In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll look at working with a variety of common feelings that can come up when you’re resolving your interpersonal conflicts, and how you can transform those feelings into empowering choices.
Click here for Part 2 – Understanding the Negative Emotions
Click here for Part 3 – Understanding the Positive Emotions
Note from Oliver: Hi everyone! It’s been a while – I’ve been experiencing life in many ways, and haven’t felt inclined towards writing articles for some time. However! I feel like I want to get back into it, and to take inspiration from others! If there’s any topics you’d like me to cover, please leave a comment with the idea! I want to make sure that the things I bring up are relevant to everyone.