This four-part blog series will explain 4 unique and healthy ways to effectively communicate and navigate your way through conflict.

A Look at Conflict

Avoiding and resolving conflicts starts with effective communication. Unfortunately, when two people have a difference of opinion and the stakes are high, a definite fight, flight or freeze reaction takes hold. Neuroscientists can now map how the brain activity of an individual in conflict moves from the frontal cortex where higher order thinking occurs, down to the limbic system, or the part of the brain that developed in mammals well before humans came into the picture.

The Brain Shifts

When this brain shift happens, it triggers a number of unhelpful events. We can get a false sense of losing control over the situation. We can become absorbed with our own perspective and have difficulty seeing the other person’s viewpoint. And we often forget to use basic rules for effective communication.

Suggestion #1 to Effectively Communicate and Navigate Your Way Through Conflict

Express your needs and interests, not judgments and criticisms. This is of course, easier said than done but can be learned with practice, time and patience.

When you are in the midst of conflict and find yourself using words that criticize, judge, insult, or blame the other person, you’re using words that are going to minimize your chances of a peaceful resolution. Judging and criticizing the other person, no matter how justified, will undoubtedly be counterproductive in reaching a lasting agreement. It also will lead to an outcome that you will most likely not be able to look back upon with satisfaction.

Judging and blaming the other person is not bad or wrong. It is, in fact, human nature. However, when these judgments are expressed out loud to the other person, the natural reaction is to defend and counter-attack. The other person busies him or herself with thinking about why you’re wrong, and as a result, is not going to hear what you are really saying.

This is not to say that you should stifle your anger or frustration; it is simply to say that criticism, insults and blame are ineffective expressions of anger and frustration when you’re trying to negotiate an agreement. There’s no reason you can’t enjoy blasting the other person. Just do it in your head, in the presence of inanimate objects, or with another confidant like a lawyer or therapist. In other words, find safe ways to release strong feelings when the other person with whom you are in conflict is not around.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week when we will share advice about effective word choices to use to communicate during times of conflict.