Quick reactions are common in conflict. Someone says or does something that hurts. The hurt feels like an injury that must be immediately tended to.
When the incident occurs in the midst of a sudden or ongoing conflict, there is a tendency to engage in an immediate response. These responses are almost always emotion charged reactions. Although these reactions are meant to defend and protect – to stop the assault – the immediate reaction tends to feed the conflict.
Taking A Break
Confronting or immediately responding to a person who has hurt or wronged you when you are upset is not always a good thing to do. Reacting in the midst of anger most often means trying to deliver a response that hits back, and is seldom one that lessens the conflict.
Waiting until the emotion has cleared a bit can actually facilitate a more positive interaction and lasting change. Taking a break gives you a chance to:
- Get some perspective
- Step away from the negative feelings
- Stop and think about the real purpose of the conversation
- Determine how to proceed
On the other hand, confronting a person immediately can trigger additional negative thoughts or feelings, including anger, thereby increasing the level of conflict.
Waiting until the emotion clears also gives you a chance to determine if there is an underlying issue, as well as your “interest” versus your “position” in the interaction.
Often there are underlying issues that feed the friction in relationships. In these situations, unless the underlying issue is addressed, there will be continued barbs and clashes. In other words, if you believe or feel that a individual keeps taking you for granted, you are more likely to react in frustration and anger during minor interactions until the underlying issue is addressed. It is better to deal with the feeling of being taken for granted on a larger scale than confronting each occasion separately.
Emotional Positions vs. Interests
An immediate reaction to a conflict tends to mean an emotional position-based response. Positions are subjective emotion-based outcomes or desires that may not be easily satisfied or addressed; and seldom to the satisfaction of disputing parties. Interests are more objective outcomes and likely can be met to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.
Positions are pre-determined outcomes that may not be easily satisfied, and it is the extremely rare case when a position can be fulfilled to both parties’ satisfaction. Interests, however, are needs that can often be met to both parties’ satisfaction.
Set up a plan to step away from a conflict, cool off a bit, and get some perspective. Before reacting, giving yourself a time-out of at least 30 minutes. Take the time to determine any underlying issues in the relationship as well as your interest versus position. Once the time-out or break is over, focus on addressing any underlying issues from an interest-based perspective.
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