How to Be Less Reactive in a Conflict


Conflict is like fire: too much causes damage to people and property; too little and no meaningful change can occur.

If you can prevent unnecessary conflict and can find win-win outcomes to workplace challenges, you will be indispensible on the job. You will also tend to be much happier in your personal life. Excellent communicators tend to have small habits that almost force them to deal with an issue before it becomes destructive, or at least these habits help them turn conflict around before it gets too destructive. See if any of these habits would be helpful for you. Feel free to customize them to your personality style and circumstances.

Habits to De-escalate Yourself and Others

Most conflict resolution training programs will tell you the best things to say or do in a conflict, but if you are feeling triggered, you won’t remember. Have you ever noticed that? The trick is to get out of the Reptilian Brain and activate the Neo-cortex area of the brain. The Reptilian Brain is the most primitive part of the brain. It’s like one of those old computers from the 1950’s that could do two functions. The Neo-cortex is much higher functioning and is more like your iPhone; it’s where you store all that great learning about how to communicate in a tense situation.

Think about the last time you felt “triggered”

Chances are your adrenaline levels went up, your pupils dilated, your breathing became shallow along with a number of other physiological changes. In short, your Reptilian or “fight or flight” brain was activated. In this state of mind, you only have two choices…to defend yourself or run away.

In a workplace argument, that could look like avoiding talking about something that is important to you or using defensive language (“Your manner is unprofessional!”) Let’s face it, nothing good usually comes from avoiding an important conversation or blowing up at someone, and yet most of us succumb to both from time to time. Have you ever noticed that if you are feeling calm but the other person becomes triggered that you suddenly can become that way, too? It has a viral effect.

Learn to be aware when your fight or flight brain has been triggered

It also helps to recognize it in others. If you are “seeing red,” take in a long, slow, deep breath and exhale slowly a few times. These actions will activate your neo-cortex where your higher level communication skills reside. If necessary, take time out, walk around the block, and re-schedule a meeting when you have calmed down.

Do you have a trick or a tip for getting “un-triggered?” If so, leave your comment below. For more information on our programs and online learning click here.