How to manage conflict

Conflict situations make us uncomfortable. The vast majority of us view it as a negative thing.
But I think we would all agree that it is impossible to get through life without encountering it.
In fact most of us encounter a situation of conflict on a daily basis. Be it in our personal relationships, our work lives, in a queue at the airport, driving home in heavy traffic on a rainy Tuesday evening… Conflict is an unavoidable fact of life.
It is interesting then that we are so surprised when we encounter it and how fearful we can be of it. Most of us are ill-equipped to cope with conflict.
Our go-to response is usually anger or hurt, both negative feelings. We feel threatened. Naturally we try to avoid these negative responses. But what if these negative feelings could be transformed into more positive responses?
What if we accepted that the emergence of conflict is a normal part of life and developed the skills to deal with it in a more constructive way?
If we engage with the conflict issue and learn something valuable in the process, then we make conflict a positive thing.
Take a disagreement between a couple as an example. If a conflict arises, generally both parties will be very aware of it. There is a palpable sense of awkwardness to usually easy interactions; a feeling of unease; something not quite right. Communication becomes superficial or terse. Or worse – silence reigns.

Once the couple both realise they are in a conflict situation, it is what they do next that really matters. They must acknowledge that a conflict exists. Only when conflicts are brought out into the open, do they have the chance of being dealt with effectively.
Managing conflict effectively requires skills. Skills that sadly are not usually taught to our children at school. But with these skills, the idea of facing conflicts with others is not nearly so daunting, and in fact can be stimulating and exciting. Kenneth Kaye says that ‘if we manage conflict constructively, we harness its energy for creativity and development’.
Dialogue is the key element in constructive conflict resolution.
Listening with empathy to another’s feelings and beliefs is not easy. But it is fundamental to effective communication.
Practically speaking, this means trying to imagine what it feels like to be in the other person’s shoes at that moment and then reflecting what you experience back to them to check whether you understand their feelings correctly. This can be very difficult to do especially when you have strong opposing views.
But it is possible when both parties are truly committed to understanding. Something amazing happens when people feel understood and accepted at a deep level. Their need to hold onto their preconceived solution to the conflict often dissipates.
And therein is the shift in perception and the key to unlocking the conflict.
It is magical to watch this process happen, even more incredible to experience it first-hand.
So the next time you get that feeling of unease at the emergence of a disagreement with your partner or work colleague – don’t shy away from it.
Take it as an opportunity for self development, a chance to deepen and strengthen your relationships.

How Psychotherapy can help with anxiety

It is natural to feel anxious when something unexpected or difficult is happening in our lives or worry about significant current or future life events.
Sometimes, however this can feel overwhelming and make an impact on our daily lives and relationships and we can experience bad anxiety, panic attacks and difficulty in sleeping or relaxing.
Sometimes these symptoms can be there, underlying how things are going in your life and a trigger like sudden change, bereavement can tip us into constant anxiety or panic. It can also occur in a more general way (generalised anxiety) where excessive worry can be the main thing in one’s life. Sometimes underneath that anxiety is an avoidance of more difficult emotions like grief, loss, sadness, trauma etc.
This can also mean that unless these underlying very important thoughts and feelings are addressed the anxiety can possibly get worse or take over one’s life and relationships with others.
Often unknowingly people do try to manage these anxieties by over working, exercising excessively or drug and alcohol use or misuse. Intrusive thoughts then can emerge and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be a manifestation.
Psychotherapy is an effective and proven option for the treatment of anxiety, it can help identify what is triggering the anxiety. It is a safe place to explore how life experiences may have set up responses and ways of thinking and feeling that can be maladaptive.
Using Psychodynamic therapy to explore interpersonal and emotional issues is very effective for relief of the symptoms. As the feelings and emotions of anxiety are made more conscious and worked through in therapy the reward is the potential to also enjoy the heartfelt connection and love and the ability to say yes to life.
The Body Remembers (2003) – B Rothschild
Nice Study – Generalised Anxiety Disorder in Adults (2011)
British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists – Trial of Integrative Therapy for GAD (2008) – Newman, Borkovec, Fisher, Nordberg