How do you handle conflict? Are you able to deal with it effectively and speak your mind? Or are you afraid you’ll rock the boat and keep it all inside? If you’re the latter, you’re not alone. It can be challenging to deal with interpersonal issues. But learning how to handle conflict when you hate confrontation can be cathartic. It allows you to release pain, establish boundaries, and create stronger relationships. So, let’s increase your confidence to help you handle conflict like a champ.
How to Handle Conflict When You Hate Confrontation
1. Understand your fears root’s
If you fear speaking your mind, you may convince yourself it’s better to stay mum. And if it’s a habit, you may even start to dislike yourself for how you approach conflict. But a lot of this is outside your control. For example, your past conditioning and early childhood experience of trauma and abuse could be the culprit. When someone approaches conflict with past trauma, it can trigger those incidents while creating further traumatization if our attempts to speak out don’t align with our expectations. Therefore, remind yourself that this fear comes from a painful memory and that standing up for yourself is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s one of the lies anxiety tells us, and you can get past it. Your opinion is valuable, and you deserve to express it.
2. Decide your desired outcome
What are you hoping occurs if you speak your mind? It’s important to determine your desired outcome before having the conversation. You can ask yourself:
- Do I want an apology?
- What behavior do I want the person to improve?
- Do I need to vent? If so, why?
- Do I want to discover how to set healthy boundaries?
- Would I be able to sever the relationship and move on?
While you’re at it, determine how you want to address the conflict. Perhaps sending an email or text is enough. Writing it may help you process your feelings and remove the associated anxiety. Or do you need to speak face-to-face? If so, decide whether it’s best handled privately or publicly. You have the right to set your terms on when and where.
3. Use grounding tools to calm you
If you fear conflict, your fight-flight-or-freeze response might activate. For example, you may feel your heart race, your palms sweat, and a painful knot in your stomach. When this happens, you may feel flustered, your thoughts may become jumbled, and you can ultimately find yourself apologizing before you know it. To prevent this, learn how to calm your nervous system in the heat of the moment.
- Walk away to gather your thoughts
- Give yourself a butterfly hug
- Practice deep breathing
- Play with a fidget spinner or other anxiety-relief toy
Practice self-soothing techniques to reduce the fear and keep you on top of your game.
4. Focus on what you want to say
Another tool to help you discover how to handle conflict when you hate confrontation is to focus on what you want to say beforehand. You can talk to a trusted loved one and act out the conversation. Or you can journal to help you decipher exactly what happened and how it affected you (i.e. specific emotions). For example, instead of something vague like “I wish my partner paid more attention to me”, write, “I wish my partner acknowledged my feelings when I’m upset “. Once you discover your main points, save them on your phone and refer back to them during the conversation if you become anxious or confused.
5. Weigh the pros and cons
Before you address the matter, take out your trusted journal and weigh the pros and cons. For example, write what you will gain versus what you could lose. Remember, you can’t predict or control how the other party will react. Therefore, ask, “If they react poorly after I confront them, how will I be able to cope with the aftermath and heal?” Arm yourself with grounding techniques following the conversation to calm the effects, whether positive or negative.
6. Use “I” statements
Once you find the bravery to confront someone, use clear statements to express yourself openly and honestly. “I” statements should be the go-to tool to achieve your objective. For example, saying, “I feel sad when you don’t respond to my messages”, versus “You don’t care about me. You ignore my texts all the time”, expresses your perspective based on your feelings rather than blaming or accusing the other person. In other words, “I” statements eliminate defense and aid conflict resolution.
7. Change your perspective
Promote a collaborative approach rather than entering the conversation hot and ready to battle. Indeed, dropping the “you-against-them mentality” will help you learn how to control your emotions, see their side, and resolve the matter rather than hurting your relationship. Depending on the nature of the incident, the end goal should be to act like a team. Use the following statements to help you shift the energy.
- Let’s find common ground
- I hear what you’re saying, and I’d like to share my thoughts, too
- Let’s take a step back and discuss this calmly
- I understand how you feel
- Can you help me understand your perspective?
8. Check-in and evaluate
Once you’ve confronted the person, you may experience a roller coaster of emotions. Your past conditioning may creep up regardless of the outcome, and you may feel drawn to apologize or people-please (Discover how to stop people-pleasing). But give yourself time to process facing your fears. Additionally, provide the same respect to the other party. They, too, need time to process, and when you’re both ready, you can resume your relationship or determine what’s next.
9. Celebrate your efforts
Confronting your fears is not an easy feat. So, reward yourself, regardless of what transpired. You bravely spoke your mind, and that in itself deserves a celebration. Additionally, take a moment as you process to determine what you did well. Perhaps you displayed empathy when you wanted to change the tables to your feelings. Or maybe you maintained composure instead of yelling. Acknowledge your wins even if some parts were unfavorable. Doing so will reinforce more attempts to confront.
Learning how to handle conflict when you hate confrontation can be challenging but cathartic. It allows you to change your conditioning, face your fears, and release your emotions. Therefore, practice the tips we discussed, and be proud of yourself for every step forward. You have every right to express yourself.
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