Recently I was engaged in a long, difficult conversation. I had to stay calm during conflict. This is not easy for most people. Unfortunately, so many people avoid conflict because they do not know how to handle it. Conflict can be our great friend if we can be strong enough to move through it to a solution on the other side. Conflict is necessary for growth.
In this back and forth, I did not agree with my conversational partner. We did not see eye to eye. I knew we probably would not by the end of the interaction and we possibly never would. Knowing that I went into the conversation armed with my most powerful tools for staying calm during conflict. Here they are.
Move and Talk Slowly to Stay Calm During Conflict
Knowing how brains work has its advantages. I know how to keep my brain calm. I knew that if I moved quickly and talked fast my brain speed would increase to High Beta. High Beta increases stress and anxiety. I also knew my heart rate would increase, my breathing would become rapid, and it would crank my brain up even more. This would make it almost impossible to stay calm.
So, walking into the building I walked slow. Not just slow, abnormally slow. Like a snail. Picture it, me, Dr. Trish Leigh, super-fast walker, walking at the rate of a sloth. I did this one other time when I had an insanely busy day and I could feel my brain getting away from me, meaning I was tired, overwhelmed and stress was building. However, I had to keep going. It was a day of juggling. Juggling work, many kids’ activities, phone calls, etc. Multi-tasking. I try not to multi-task because I know it wounds me. At the end of the night, I was moving very slow and my son Seamus asked me why I was moving so creepy. I retorted, in dismay, that I was not “creepy” I was calm, cool, and collected. He assured me that was not how I looked. Too funny. Well, you might look a little slow-moving, but try it. It works for me and will work for you too.
This strategy will help you prevent escalation in the first place, while the next two will help de-escalate if you feel yourself becoming frustrated.
Whilst engaged in said difficult discussion, you can use a technique called Box Breathing to stay calm during the conflict. Basically, you think of your breaths as occurring in the shape of a box. This is how you do it. Breath in for 3-5 seconds, you hold your breath for the same, breath out for 3-5 seconds, hold again, and repeat. This helps to calm your nervous system and keep your brain in the calm and focused mode of Low Beta. If you remember, Low Beta is the speed you must use to make good decisions and think well. Box breathing can help you stay in that mode as you endure a difficult situation.
Respond Not React
Sometimes, as conversations become more intense and heated, you can feel yourself becoming stressed and overwhelmed. When this happens, take yourself out of the moment for just a minute. Avert gaze by looking away and take a minute to mentally re-group. This will help you respond intentionally instead of reacting. Reactions tend to produce a negative outcome. Thoughtful responses can help you make your point and move the conversation, and your cause, forward.
Be Less Stressed in the First Place to Stay Calm During Conflict
If you know me, you know I am pretty chill. Don’t get me wrong, I am busy and keep going, but I don’t get upset or mad most often. Thank God my brain is well regulated and can handle micro-fight or flight pretty well. For example, yesterday Saoirse did not want to go to school because she felt “sick”. Really, she just wanted to play a video she discovered on-line the night before. She was freaking out and having a meltdown. Seamus was giving me an attitude about something. While I am at the bus stop with Seamus and Saoirse, for 10 minutes mind you, Fiona was blowing up my phone with texts because she wanted to leave for school early and Declan refused. I texted him. He left me unread. Seriously? Aoife was hiding in her room until go time. Smart girl.
How does one deal with all this? First, I keep telling myself I can make it until 7:30 am. Then I muster up my breadth and depth of self-regulation skills and put them to good use. I helped Saoirse come down form the meltdown and leave with a kiss and a smile. No small feat. I made Seamus get out of the car and go hang with his friends so I could get back home to the others. By the time I got back, the teenagers were pulling out of the driveway and I waved them good-bye.
How to Keep Stress In Check.
The point? I keep my stress in check through Home Neurofeedback and the use of all of my Neuro Coaching tools that I teach in my sessions and my courses. I use them ALL DAY EVERYDAY. You can too. Getting yourself neurologically regulated in the first enables you to use self-regulation skills throughout your day.
Home Neurofeedback helps your brain to shift into the cam and focused mode and stay there as your operating mode. Then the tips, tools, and strategies that I use help to keep you there as life comes at you. That is a recipe for success.
The old me would have just yelled at each kid one by one. Guess what that does? Dysregulates everyone, including me. All that achieves is a crappy day for everyone. That is a recipe for disaster.
If you cannot keep your stress and anxiety levels at bay, then check out my Neuro Coaching and Home Neurofeedback. Being less stressed in the first place will change your life in so many wonderful ways.