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Transforming trouble into triumph

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Learning to deal with conflict will allow for better interpersonal relations and peace of mind

Buddha used a great story to illustrate that we all have the choice of whether to take personal offence from another person’s behaviour. He asked a crowd: “If someone gives a gift to another person, who then chooses to decline it, who owns the gift? The giver or the person who refuses to accept the gift?”

“The giver,” said the group.

“Then it follows, does it not, whenever a person tries to abuse us or unload their anger on us, we can each choose to decline or accept the abuse; to make it ours or not? By our response to the abuse from others, we can choose who owns and keeps the bad feelings.”

When people choose to vent their angst and frustrations onto you it can be very upsetting and make you feel very anxious. Conflict arises when two or more values or opinions contradict each other. Conflict is inevitable and we usually respond using the classic “fight or flight” mode programmed within us - we face it or we run away.

Tips on how to defuse a potential conflict

● Listen When someone is in conflict mode they can end up being on “transmit” due to heightened stress levels. By listening and allowing them to get whatever it is off their chest, they will eventually run out of steam
● Sympathise This doesn’t mean wallowing in a mutual pity party, but simply saying “I am sorry that you feel this way” can immediately defuse a situation
● Empathise This is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. There are three sides to every situation: your perspective; their perspective; and a joint perspective, which you may reach together
● Ask questions Attempt to find out, by asking questions, what the root of the problem is, as well as the desired outcome
● Agree a course of action It is always good to discuss a balanced course of action that is mutually beneficial and will achieve the best possible results

Conflicts tend to become bigger when left to fester so, although facing them can be difficult, there is value in addressing them. Conflict gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and others. Granted, you may not agree with the opinions of those with whom you engage in conflict, but the chance to see things from another’s perspective may change your point of view on a matter.

The way you think about conflict has a direct impact on your ability to deal with it. To better cope with it you must alter your mindset towards it. If you think of conflict in a negative way, this will result in a self-fulfilling prophecy - so, instead, start thinking about the benefits that can arise from it.

● This article is adapted from Resilience: How to Cope when Everything around you Keeps Changing by Liggy Webb (Capstone, £10.99). Available from

Liggy Webb is a leading expert in modern life skills. She has developed a range of techniques and strategies to support people and organisations to cope more successfully with modern living

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