If you’re in a particularly heated argument, Klimecki, the neurologist, suggests taking “microbreaks” to help regain perspective. She also suggests taking measures to reduce stress – because stress reduces function in a part of the brain that helps us think rationally. A similar approach, he says, can help reduce toxic polarization. It’s effective because in the heat of argument, people tend to demonize one another; counteracting that can neutralize assumptions of negative intent. And that’s not all; conflict literally dampens our brain’s ability to feel love.
Having people who are there for you, support you, inspire you, and send you relatable memes (“lol it’s us”) is one of life’s greatest treasures. But that doesn’t mean you’ll never experience some tension (or, worse, a full-blown fight) with your friends. And that can be a major stressor in our lives, especially since most of us aren’t experts at how to handle conflicts in our friendships.
These things never help to fix a problem and ultimately bring more hurt to all involved. These include ultimatums, yelling, threatening to cut off the friendship, name calling, and personal attacks. Most of the progress in relationships comes from a series of discussions as they unravel naturally.
Take space from the situation so that you can respond from a nonreactive place. When you feel that you can do that, validate their advice in order to create an atmosphere of emotional security. Scientists who study the intersection of conflict and human behavior say it’s essential to understand the biology behind some of these toxic interactions.
Becoming aware of our ingrained impulses, they say, can help us learn to diffuse combustible situations. Let them fully state their point of view about the issue/conflict/problem without interruption. Just listening, rather than trying to engage, may be enough to allow someone to feel like they have the opportunity to say what’s on their mind. Showing respect for another’s differences may go a very long way. (This applies to all difficult people, not just family.) It’s tempting to try to help someone you want to care about; you probably will make some efforts to help them.
If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs. This will make it hard to communicate with others and establish what’s really troubling you. For example, couples often argue about petty differences—the way she hangs the towels, the way he slurps his soup—rather than what is really bothering them. how to deal with someone who avoids conflict While you shouldn’t continually use personal struggles as an excuse to keep putting off the discussion, it is important to consider if you have the immediate capacity for it. Carve out an entire afternoon — or day, if you need it — so that you aren’t rushing through your chat and have time to process any emotions you may feel afterward. Self-awareness is considered one aspect of emotional intelligence (EI).
Take a deep breath, be brave, and try one of these techniques. If you’re holding on to grudges based on past conflicts, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.
FGC’s Ministry on Racism Program and the Communications team are working on a document that examines what racial wounding is, how to address it in the moment, and how to begin the process of healing as a community. We look forward to sharing it with you in a future issue of Vital Friends. Our guidelines also detail what harassment is, and what steps we take to remove harmful commentary. If you have trouble setting boundaries without being reactive, prioritize working on your own ability to self-regulate. As uncomfortable as it may make you to continuously receive unwanted advice, if you can respond with compassion, the situation will likely diffuse much faster.