Conflict and Emotions

We like the quote by psychologist, John Gottman, “When you’re furious, you can’t be curious.”  Conflict is all about emotions, and when a person is off balance emotionally it becomes extremely difficult to engage in constructive responses to conflict.   You can lose sight of your objectives and become focused on how the other person has wronged you.  Retaliatory responses kick in and you are no longer interested in solving the problem as much as punishing the other person.

There has been considerable research in the area of emotion regulation over the past ten years.  We find the work of Daniel Goleman, James Gross, Kevin Ochsner, Richard Davidson, and Daniel Siegel among others to be helpful in exploring this new area.

New approaches for dealing with negative emotions show promise and these techniques hold great promise for improving responses to conflict.  Use of centering, reflection, mindfulness, and cognitive reappraisal appear to calm our inner tensions associate with conflict threats and provide us with a way of regain emotional balance so that we can become curious about why we are experiencing a conflict and how the other person may be seeing things so different than we do. Advances in positive psychology show promise in helping people develop more positive moods that can serve as an antidote to the negative emotions that can arise in conflict.  By managing one’s emotions, a person can improve their chances of using constructive behavioral responses to deal with conflict more effectively.

Author:Craig Rundle - Eckard College