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You feel it bubbling up within you. It’s like red, hot lava, working its way up to your head. Your cheeks flush, your temperature rises and — before you even know it — you’ve blurted out something that you simply don’t mean. It was cruel and bitter. And you regret it.
Anger does funny things to people. Even the nicest among us can become mean when we are provoked. You feel like someone is attacking you so you attack back. Before you know it, you’re caught up in a heated back and forth, throwing out insults left, right, and center.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to stop this cycle. If you have an angry streak, there are management techniques you can use to help you manage it. One thing you can do is learn how to respond rather than react to conflict. Here are the steps you need to follow:
1. Prepare yourself in advance
If you know you’re about to have a difficult conversation with someone, that gives you the upper hand over your emotions. You have the opportunity to mentally prepare yourself.
Take some time to consider what it is about this subject that gets to you. What are your trigger points? What is it that is making you feel insecure? What are you afraid of? By answering these questions, you can identify and manage your own perspective.
2. Take a deep breath — or two
When the conflict starts, stop yourself from reacting immediately. Instead, stay silent and take a couple of deep breaths. This move will allow you to pause before you decide what to say — giving you more time to think. Deep breathing also lowers your stress levels.
3. Ask for more information
Are you making assumptions here? You might think that you understand what the other person is saying but you cannot be 100% sure. If you feel attacked, make sure that you are both on the same page. Rather than getting annoyed, ask them to clarify things.
4. Offer respect and compassion
Respect is a two-way street. No doubt, you expect respect from the people around you. We all do. However, if you are not giving it to the other person, you won’t get it back.
When we argue with other people, we often fail to see their side of the story. You may be so focused on your own feelings that you forget to offer them a level of compassion too.
5. Avoid being defensive
Before you defend yourself, consider whether it is really worth it. Chances are, the other person is not saying anything wholly negative or even mean about you.
They may simply be offering some advice or trying to help you see their perspective. Before you jump to being defensive, make sure that you understand the other person.
6. Consider your answer first
Now that you’ve had a moment to think, what is it that you want to say to the other person? There’s no shame in telling them that you need some time to come back to them. For example, you could say “Give me a day or two and we can revisit this.”
When you fully understand the response you want to give — and why you want to give it — you can deliver it to the other person in a polite, kind, and compassionate way.
Learning to respond well in the face of conflict takes time. However, the more practice you have, the easier it will become. Try these steps the next time you disagree with someone.