If you’ve ever found yourself upset with another person – or had another upset with you – you probably know that the first thing that can happen is a flash of intense emotion such as anger, frustration, or sadness.
It’s hard to step toward a challenging conversation when our own emotions are so inflamed, which is why practicing self-compassion is an essential first step…before trying to engage with others.
Being self-compassionate during a conflict involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding, just as you would a friend. Here are 10 practical steps to cultivate self-compassion during a conflict:
Understand Your Feelings: Recognize and accept the emotions you are experiencing without judgment. It's okay to feel upset, angry, or hurt. Remember that feelings are like dashboard lights that are illuminated when something that matters to us is at stake.
Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that bring you comfort and relaxation. Take care of your physical and emotional well-being, whether it's through exercise, meditation, or spending time with supportive friends.
Take a Break: If emotions are running high, give yourself permission to take a break. Stepping away from the situation temporarily can help you gain perspective and prevent impulsive reactions.
Speak to Yourself Kindly: Use gentle and supportive language when talking to yourself. Avoid harsh self-criticism or negative self-talk. Imagine what you might say to a friend going through a similar situation.
Practice Mindfulness: Stay present in the moment without getting overwhelmed by past events or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can help you observe your thoughts and feelings without being overly identified with them – and that awareness can help you uncover what the issue is that you might want to address with the other.
Ask Yourself What’s at Stake: Is it being included in a decision? Being spoken to with respect? Keeping a private matter private? See what you can uncover about what matters…but don’t get stuck right now on how you would have resolved the difference. Just acknowledge what matters to you so that you can articulate that clearly and without blame.
Don’t Get Stuck in the Blame Game: It’s tempting to offload some of those difficult feelings onto others and get stuck in what the authors of “Difficult Conversations” call “The Blame Game.” Remember that it is possible that you may have contributed to this situation and that if you did, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person; it just means that you have some influence in making repairs and preventing it from happening again.
Decide whether this is the right time to address the conflict: When we have a sense that an injustice has happened or something unfair has been done, our likely reaction is anger and distress. Allow yourself to feel those feelings. Once the intensity passes, you can start to look beyond the feeling itself for what is at stake in this difference with another.
Put Things in Perspective: Consider the bigger picture and avoid catastrophizing. Remind yourself that conflicts are a part of life, and they offer opportunities for growth and learning.
Set Realistic Expectations: Recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and conflicts are a natural part of human relationships. Set realistic expectations for yourself and others.