Join Craig Runde for an in-depth discussion in this video Slowing down and reflecting, part of Improving Your Conflict Competence.
- If you're in a conflict, and are experiencing strong emotions, it can feel like you are being swept away. Even if you know the right behaviors to use, you may find it impossible to stay centered enough to do so. In those situations, it's important to be able to buy some time to give yourself a chance to cool down. In this video we'll go over three steps you can use to slow things down, and regain your composure before engaging with the other person.
The three steps we'll cover are 1) learning how to buy time. 2) Regaining emotional balance, and 3) reflecting on what is happening and what you want. The first step is to Buy Time. Let's say you are having a disagreement with another person. You begin to feel yourself becoming angry. What should you do? Rather than going ahead and possibly saying something you will later regret, stop. At this point, you need to do something that will give you some time to cool down and clarify your thoughts.
Depending on the circumstances, you might ask for a time out. In a meeting, this might take the form of breaking for coffee. If you're talking one-on-one with someone, you might say that the issue is important to you, and you want a little time to reflect on it before continuing. Of course, it can be difficult to come up with something to say in the moment. Heightened emotions can depress your ability to think. I suggest you consider in advance some ways that you can ask for a time out when you encounter conflict in the future.
When asking for time, you want to be clear that you intend to come back to the discussion. Otherwise people may think you are trying to avoid dealing with the conflict. Once you've bought time, your second step is to Regulate your emotions. We've talked about some helpful approaches for doing this. Like focusing your attention away from the problem. Or interpreting the situation in less negative ways. The extra time you've gained can give you breathing space to practice these techniques.
As you begin regain a more balanced emotional state, you can take time for the third step, which is Reflecting on what is happening, and what you want out of the conflict. At this point it is helpful to look at how you are thinking and feeling about the situation. Ask yourself, "How am I interpreting the matter? "How am I viewing the other person's actions? "How are these interpretations contributing "to the way I feel?" After looking at your own thoughts and feelings, it's also valuable, although sometimes difficult, to consider how the other person may be seeing the conflict and your actions.
This form of perspective taking can help you gain a broader picture of the conflict. Finally, think about what you want out of the conflict. What is important to you? What would be important to any resolution of the problem? Likewise, ask yourself what might be important to the other person. Understanding what both parties want is important to ultimately being able to craft sustainable solutions that meet both of your needs.