How to Manage Your Emotions During a Conflict

This is an excerpt from my new course: Healthy Boundaries in Relationships, Friendships and Work

One of the main reasons people avoid confrontations is because they’re afraid of their own emotions.

We worry that we’ll embarrass ourselves, hurt someone’s feelings, or put our career at risk when we get overwhelmed with emotions. Some people worry that they’ll cry, others that they’ll rage and overreact, and others that they’ll simply choke on emotion and be unable to speak.

In this video, we look at the art of managing your emotions during high stakes confrontations and conflicts so that you’re still able to stand up for yourself without losing control. 



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Full transcript (unedited)

You’re about to watch a video. That’s an excerpt of one of my online courses free sample, if you will. If you enjoy it, please get in touch Let me know what you think. Let’s talk about probably the main thing you need to talk about managing your emotions during a conflict or confrontation. One of the main reasons people don’t get into confrontations and refuse to set boundaries is because they’re worried that emotions will get out of control, they’re worried that the conflict will get heated, that they won’t be able to handle it or they’re scared of the other people’s reaction, or that they’ll be embarrassed by their own emotions. And so if you can give yourself permission to have emotions, and that you feel safe, that you’ll be able to manage these emotions, then there should be very few barriers to prevent you from having a conflict or confrontation. Probably a key thing to keep in mind is that managing your emotions is not the same as controlling them. Controlling emotions is what most people try to do, and it does not work. And it’s the reason that people get into conflict is the explosion of emotion that comes from you trying to push it down, or trying to mold it or trying to get your hands around it. Managing emotion is really not about managing emotion at all. It’s about managing your behavioral response to emotion. See, emotion can be allowed to run free, just so long as your behavior is not allowed to run free. See, control is suppression and prevention, hiding emotions, rationalizing them away, pretending you don’t have them holding them in, we’re not going to be doing that. That’s control, we’re going to talk about managing your response. When we look at it as managing your response is reacting in a helpful way to emotions that you can’t control and should not try to control. If you’re okay with all the emotional rage, be it anxiety, fear, anger, confusion, disgust, plus the pleasurable ones, then there’s really nothing to be controlled here. Any emotion as mine, just so long as it isn’t followed by a behavior that hurts your life or hurts other people. We grew up with emotional shame, we think emotions are bad and wrong, because we so often associate them with bad behavior. We have this limiting belief that emotions equals certain behavior, like fear equals running away and backing down and equals violence, Disgust equals cruelty and bullying. But that’s only sometimes that’s only if people choose to react their way to the emotions, you don’t have to react their way to emotions. So you can feel without requiring a certain response, you can be angry without raising your voice. You can be disgusted without saying nasty things to somebody, you can be confused, without pretending that you know what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be limited to these responses. But you do need to limit your responses to things that are helpful, rather than harmful. The key here is to do what’s called minding the gap. There is a gap between your emotional response and your behavioral reaction to that emotion. You know, you feel anger. And there’s a little moment of decision making that happens before you behaviorally express that anger. Whether you raise your voice and become violent is a choice. You don’t have to do that. You can be angry and still remain a calm level voice and still be kind in your words, you can even say I’m angry, without trying to inflict any pain on another person, you do have that level of control. If you realize that there’s this gap between your emotion and your response, a key way to mine this gap. And the most practical way to manage your emotions during a conflict is to talk about them, I am feeling this way to give a voice to it. This voice not only shows your emotion without shaming it or suppressing it, it gives an expression to it. And it gives you time to think it gives you time to make decisions on how you’re going to respond rather than a knee jerk impulsive reaction, which is probably not going to be very healthy. So you can say I’m confused right now. You can say I need to slow down because I’m getting a bit angry. You can say, look, I can feel myself taking this personally. So I’m going to try and manage that just let’s keep an eye on that. You can say all these things. I’m sure as you hear me say them you realize that’s not bad to say at all. And that if I’m talking to someone who’s a good fit for me, they’re going to be understanding and compassionate when I say things like they’re just so long as I respect them as well. And if I say something like that, and the other person tries to use it against me and they’re cruel and their response, well, that just tells me that I don’t need to be talking to this person. Just confront them then cut them out of my life. Problem solved. So you expressing your feelings in this way also has the added benefit of testing the other person to see if they’re respectful enough, they actually care about you. So no matter what you’re feeling, you can always slow it down, take a breath, speak as rationally as possible. And that is always an available option. Always, a key factor to keep in mind is, the more intense you feel, the more emotional you are, the slower you go, because you need to give yourself time to mine that gap. So if you’re getting really angry, you should be taking a long time to respond, there should be big gaps between when they finish and when you start. And the same applies to any emotion, even happiness. And as a last resort, if you feel that your emotions are unmanageable, meaning that you don’t seem to have control of your behavioral response to the emotions, for example, you keep raising your voice as a response to anger and you can’t seem to make yourself be quieter, then you can say, Look, we need to stop for now. Right? I need to walk away and process what I’m feeling at the moment, because I’m starting to react to it, and I can’t control myself. And that’s not good for this conversation. So let’s reconvene in 30 minutes an hour tomorrow, when I’ve just had a chance to call off and collect myself and I’ll be much more rational. If you can learn to say something like that, then you’re giving yourself permission to have feelings without the fear that you won’t be able to get out of it. And you can practice this all the time with easier emotions. You know, when you’re feeling happy, or calm or relaxed, whatever emotions it is that you feel easy about. Learn to say them out loud, you usually keep it to yourself, if you notice that you don’t bother to mention it. But you need to get practiced and saying I have an emotion right now. And so you practice with the ones where it’s easy, or where you’re with someone where you feel safe, so that when it’s harder, and you’re with someone who’s not so safe, you’ve already had that training, and you’re just changing the words. And that’s it. managing emotions does not mean becoming a cold hearted psychopath who feels nothing during confrontations, you can get heated and agitated and activated. You can get really emotional, that’s fine. Just so long as you learn to manage your behavioral response. Keep your body calm, keep your movements slow. Keep your words kind and rational. And you realize you can always do this if you just pay attention and take your time.

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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro


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