How to Handle Conflicts with Grace

Do you ever notice that when you are in a good mood life just kind of flows? You see solutions more easily. You feel more tolerant and patient. You can take yourself lightly and see the big picture.

Then, do you notice that when you are in a low mood that life can feel stuck and more full of conflict? You see mostly obstacles. You can act petty. You take yourself and life very seriously and feel as if the world is out to get you.

Most humans have a shadow side, a split persona to one degree or another. Being able to have more choice about who will run the show can be one of the most important life lessons you will ever learn.

Here is Carla talking about some tips for dealing with conflict at work or at home:


What neuro-science is now telling us

Neil Slade has a great way of explaining neuro-science in practical, layman terms. When you are in a low mood the energy of your brain resides more in what neuro-scientists call “The Reptilian Complex”.

The brain has three layers:

1. The Reptilian Complex is the inner core: This is where we get our instinct to survive, fight, flee, gain territory and reproduce.

2. The Limbic System is the next layer: This is where we get our urge to nurture, to love, to join with others and follow laws and rules.

3. The Neo-cortex is the outer brain: This is where we get the skills to make peace between the R-Complex and the Limbic System, the ability to forgive and to temper justice with mercy, to reason and see the big picture. The frontal lobes of the neo-cortex in particular help you do your best problem solving and decision making.

While we need to have all parts of our brain functioning in order to thrive and survive, most people when under stress revert to the Reptilian Complex. They are disconnected from the more outer parts of the brain. Being able to trigger the frontal neo-cortex can put you in a good mood and help you be your better self more often.

How do you know when the Reptilian Complex is running the show?

The Reptilian Complex is more likely to be active during change, challenge and conflict, but can appear at any time. Learn to notice when that is happening. Usually you feel more tense, worried, fearful, distrustful, and hyper-vigilant. In short you feel like fighting or fleeing. Few situations in modern society require the Reptilian Complex to be running the show completely. Yet that’s where a lot of people are operating from a lot of the time.


What can trigger the “petty self”?

Many factors can contribute to you getting more easily triggered such as:

1. Multitasking or having your awareness scattered.

2. Hormonal imbalances (in both men and women).

3. Excess toxins in your body from health issues or from stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, sugar and other drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational).

4. Little or no reflection time.

5. Unresolved issues (at any age).

6. Psychological habits picked up from your family or society.

7. Lack of exercise.

8. Sleep deprivation.

9. Dehydration.

10. Feeling hungry or undernourished. Blood sugar imbalances.

11. A habit of shallow breathing or mouth breathing.

12. Not examining the validity of your thoughts.

13. Unexpressed creativity.

14. Lack of meaning in one’s life.


Tips for activating your more “graceful self”

Here are a few tips for activating the brain to move from the Reptilian-complex to the frontal neo-cortex. Make sure you do something to put yourself in a better frame of mind before dealing with a conflict. For particularly high stakes conversations email us at carla [at] artistryofchange [dot] com for a free copy of the Preparing to Have a Courageous Conversation worksheet.

1. Laughing and having fun. Laughter opens up the whole brain. Find the lighter side of the situation. Search YouTube for comedians you love. Call or talk to someone is good at making you laugh.

2. Paying attention to the present moment without interpreting it (E.g. like when you are focussed on a task you love or appreciating a sunset)

3. Focussing on one thing at a time Don’t try to deal with conflict when your focus is scattered, for example while trying to drive your car or while checking email.

4. Giving yourself the amount of sleep that your body wants (usually 7-8 hours for most adults). Wait til your rested before having an important conversation.

5. Asking “What’s good?” Ask yourself “What’s good about this situation?” What might you be learning from this conflict? What might be a great outcome from sorting out this issue?

6. Releasing negative thinking loops EMDR or Emotional Freedom Technique can help you release stuck negativity and trauma. Also, many conflicts result from escalating a small issue into a large one through an over-active imagination. The work of Byron Katie or The Sedona Method are useful for helping people examine the validity of their thoughts.

7. Doing regular exercise .Do something active before an important conversation to help release toxins from the body and increase the oxygen levels in your body.

8. Nourishing your body on a regular basis with good, nutritious food. Make sure your blood sugar levels are normalized before starting an important conversation. Drinking 8 glasses of purified water a day and stay hydrated during conflict. This will help your brain work more efficiently.

9. Creating meaning and purpose in your life. Explore your purpose and live your life from that value system as much as possible. As Les Brown once said, “If you know the why for living you can endure almost any how.”

10. Having a creative or recreational outlet. Singing, dancing, writing, art, gardening, golf, tennis, skiing, etc. These activities will keep you in your “graceful” self more often.

11. Getting inspired daily. Leave inspirational literature by your bedside. Watch inspirational movies or listen to inspirational audio programs. Watch inspiring speakers on TED or just type in “inspirational speech” or “motivational speech” into YouTube.

12. Practicing conscious breathing Try typing in “conscious breathing techniques” into YouTube and follow the instructions.

13. Getting regular physical contact. Loving touch activates the whole brain (E.g. Hugs, kisses and massage)

14. Getting organized and defining your work more clearly (try David Allen’s Getting Things Done)

15. Surrounding yourself with people who are generally optimistic and good-natured. The moods and thoughts of others can impact your well being. Establish healthy boundaries with people who like to create drama and conflict.

16. Thinking in possibilities. If you feel stuck about how to solve a problem ask yourself “If I were exceptional at solving this problem I would…”


Do you have a tip to share?

If you have an example of how you activate your best self please let us know. It just might inspire others. Please email it to carla [at] artistryofchange [dot] com