Conflict: What is an Appropriate Response?

When something happens that is upsetting to you, how do you respond? Do you walk away without saying a word and replay the event over and over in your mind going over every word that was spoken? Do you try to determine every possible outcome that might arise from this situation before you respond to someone's harsh words or mean action? Do you try to determine the other person's motives for doing or saying whatever it was they did or said and conclude in an instant they intended to hurt your feelings?

Suppose someone says something that hurts your feelings. You are immediately taken aback; you feel a sinking feeling in your gut, your face flushes and you can feel your hands start to tremble. Your mind - in an microsecond - has gone into your memory banks and retrieved a similar experience. It brings that memory to the forefront of your mind. Before you have time to determine that an old memory is being referenced for your current situation, your mind has already joined that old memory with the current situation and determined an outcome. The person who hurt your feelings in this instant is put in the same basket as the person who hurt you in the past. Your reaction to this current situation will be a mixture of the old hurt feelings along with the new. Your mind has effectively brought your past into your present, and depending on how you respond to this person, your future may also be affected.

What can you do if all this happens in a microsecond? You can learn to recognize the physical symptoms - your heartbeat getting faster, the heat of your face flushing, your palms becoming sweaty etc. - and consciously tell your mind to stop. Actually say to yourself - STOP! Take three slow deep breaths and assess only the current situation:

1 - Will responding to this person harshly change what they said?

2 - Is there any possibility that this person is reacting to something you said or did and trying to hurt you back? If you are completely sure that your answer is no - why would this person be saying something to deliberately hurt you?

3 - Do you really believe this person's harsh words were intentional? Do you really believe you know that person's motives for doing or saying whatever it was they did or said?

4 - What could be going on with this person that might cause them to behave this way?

There are many reasons for conflict, but the biggest reason there is so much conflict in our lives is our willingness of to engage in it. Is there a time where conflict is necessary? Of course! Defending yourself, standing up for something you believe to be true, and protecting another life sometimes involve conflict. Determining the difference between necessary and unnecessary conflict is the key.

Some people - especially boys/men have been taught that having understanding and compassion for others means you are weak and not masculine. Some people think that if you are understanding or compassionate that you are a doormat and allowing people to walk all over you. That idea is not true! No one should allow themselves to be treated poorly, but there is a difference between allowing someone to walk all over you and having compassion for others. Allowing people to treat you poorly is an act of fear. For instance - you are afraid that people won't like you or if you are worried about what people think of you. Having compassion for others is an act of love.

There is also a difference between standing up for yourself and being egotistic or arrogant. Standing up for yourself is healthy as long as you are not attacking another in order to stand up for yourself. Needing to be right, or making your point to people who aren't interested in it etc. is an egotistic act and one coming from a place of fear. Learning the difference is important in reducing the amount of conflict you have with others.

Being completely honest with yourself is the only way that you will attract people into your life who will be honest with you. If you have said or done something to another person that was hurtful, regardless of why believe you are justified in your actions, you will continue to attract people who behave the same way. YOU have to be accountable if you want others to be accountable. You must be honest with yourself and others if you want others to be honest with you! You get back what you give out and it all starts with how you behave with yourself.

Learn the difference between a passing comment and a comment intended to hurt your feelings. Ask yourself if you really believe that someone is intending to do or say hurtful things to you. People who deliberately try to hurt others are usually hurting inside themselves. Have you ever seen a baby deliberately hurt another? Not a 2 or 3 year old - an infant? Babies are not capable of deliberate hurtful acts and every living creature on this earth started out a baby. In order to perform a deliberate hurtful act, a person has to be able to form a conscious thought process that includes knowing the result of their words or actions.

Children learn by watching, listening, and interacting with the people in their lives. If the people in their lives are kind, loving and caring then it is only common sense that the child will grow up to be a kind, loving and caring person. If the people in their lives are aggressive, angry and abusive, then it is common sense that the child will learn behaviors that are defensive to aggression, anger and abuse, and also learn how to be aggressive and abusive themselves. It is only reasonable to assume that children who have faced years of abuse will likely have a fair amount of anger inside them, and will act out in anger more often than someone who was raised in a loving and encouraging home. You don't need scientific studies to see the logic in that idea.

We are all influenced by a multitude of things: our parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances, teachers, clergy, coaches, television, movies, music, books, and now the internet. Taking into consideration all the possibilities as to why a person might behave the way they do, or say the things they say to you is one step towards being more understanding and compassionate with the people who are in your life.

Start with your own self. Learn why you behave the way you do, why you say the things you say, and decide if you want to change anything about your behavior or keep it the same. It isn't easy to take an honest look inside yourself, but understand that your life experiences will only repeat if you continue to do, say, and think the same things over and over. If you don't understand who you are - know why you do the things you do - how could you possibly know whether or not your behaviors and thought process are contributing to conflict in your life, and whether those behaviors and thought processes are something you truly want to keep or not?

Everything we say and do IS a choice. We choose whether we are going to be loving or hurtful. We choose whether to stand up for ourselves and others, or allow other people to have power and control over our lives. We choose whether we are going to constantly be offended by others, or if we are going to try to understand them.

Physical health also plays a huge role in how someone reacts in certain situations and views their life in general. The link between physical health and mental health has been clearly established by both traditional medical doctors and alternative medicine doctors. It's common sense to understand that a person who is severely sick is likely going to have mood swings, be angrier than a healthy person, and even outright miserable. Alternatively, using sickness as an excuse to behave badly is not an acceptable practice either. This is where a health professional of your choice comes in. If you are sick - seek help. Don't use it as an excuse to treat others poorly.

By being aware of how and why you react the way you do in certain situations, you can reduce the amount of conflict in your life.

© 2017 Penny Hodgson All Rights Reserved

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