Healthy Conflict

How do we engage in conflict in a healthy and peace-seeking way?

The action steps to this may differ for each of us depending on how we individually instinctively tend to approach conflict.

Science has never been a subject I’ve particularly enjoyed, except when it comes to science about the brain and emotions.

While the ways that people respond to conflict are unique, all of us share the same chemical reactions and processes when our body feels stressed.

I’m not going to get too technical here, but basically your brain doesn’t distinguish physical stress from emotional stressors.

In a physically stressful situation (i.e. a vicious dog chasing you) your body needs to react quickly.  Any extra time spent thinking about the situation is less time for you to get to safety.  Consequently, our adrenal glands are designed to release chemicals to flood our brains and snap us into self-preservation.

Unfortunately, those chemicals also flood into the brain when we feel emotionally threatened and stressed.

The chemicals that flood the brain give us a surge to react and not think.  Thus, they inhibit us from accurately gauging and engaging with the situation.

Furthermore, these chemicals can stay in the brain for 48 hours until they are “burned off.”

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by feelings of anger or depression and you literally could not seem to think?  You probably were experiencing brain flooding.

The first step in dealing with conflict in a healthy way, is to prevent flooding from happening!  You want to be as logical, loving, and in your right mind as possible when resolving conflict.

Here are some steps to take to avoid and manage flooding:

For small stressors,

  1. Breath – Do deep slow belly breathing in you nose and out your mouth
  2. Talk to yourself – Calm yourself down.  Talking to yourself out loud is even better than just in your head.  Speak truth out loud.
  3. Reset and refresh your thoughts – see this article for more on renewing the mind.

For more stressful situations,

  1. Do some sort of physical exercise such as walking, running, or playing a sport.
  2. Take time out from any interaction with the other person you are in conflict with.
  3. Distract yourself by praying, reading, watching TV, taking a shower, etc.  Even if you are physically distant from the situation, keeping your thoughts focused on the stressor when your body is on the verge of or in the midst of a stress response, is not healthy!

When it comes to the conflict personality types, they react in stressful situations differently, and certain practices can be helpful to each of them.

Stay tuned for more on this topic, and if you have any practices that help you avoid becoming stressed in stressful situations, comment below!


The information shared in this post is from EMI’s Redeeming Conflict workbook from their “Redeeming Conflict” class.

This is one of the best classes I’ve taken, and I highly recommend checking it out!


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