AntonioGuillem/Getty Images - Anna Buckley/HelloGiggles
Kristine Fellizar
May 17, 2018 11:15 am

In a perfect world, we would all live in peace and harmony, and everyone would get along. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world, and conflict is inevitable. Finding healthy ways to deal with conflict is essential to living a healthy life. Because if you didn’t already know, conflict can affect your mental health more than you think. 

A 2013 study conducted by the Economic and Social Research Council found that children who experience negative family conflicts are more likely to experience behavioral and emotional problems, such as anxiety and depression. As a more extreme example, numerous studies have found that in countries torn apart by war or violence, there is a high occurrence of mental health disorders in women and children.

For the average person, dealing with conflict can be pretty stressful. When you’re stressed, your health and well-being can be negatively affected. 

“Conflict can trigger a host of complex emotional reactions,” psychoanalyst and author Dr. Claudia Luiz tells HelloGiggles. Some of those feelings may include fear of being forced into things, deep feelings of inadequacy, the triggering of an earlier drama that left you feeling deeply misunderstood or neglected, ambivalent feelings toward your own anger, and worse: disturbing emotions that don’t even have words.

That’s why many have a tendency to avoid conflict altogether. Even thinking about confronting someone can cause anxiety. But in reality, not speaking up doesn’t change anything. In fact, it only makes situations worse, not better. 

So what’s the #1 hack for dealing with conflict?

 

It’s no surprise that communication is key. But there is one thing you can do to take it a step further as you work to make your conversation much more effective. 

“One of the best hacks for diffusing conflict is to change the space,” Adam C. Earnheardt, Ph.D. chair and professor of communication studies in the Department of Communication at Youngstown State University, tells HelloGiggles. “Whether you're in a conflict with a coworker or having it out with a loved one, take the conversation to a neutral, quiet space, away from the prying eyes and ears, and use that time to really listen to one another."

Plus, Dr. Earnheardt explains that if you’re the one who makes the suggestion about moving the argument to a new space, you’ll likely be viewed by the other person as wanting to solve the problem rather than have it linger on. It’s also important to openly acknowledge your conflict and speak in a calm way so that you can properly (and logically) hash it out.

For example, you can say, “It’s good we’re talking about this. I know it’s not pleasant, but I know we’ll work together a lot better once we’ve figured this out.” According to Earnheardt, “Using this kind of language helps to diffuse feelings of anger in both of you. It also lets the other person know that you see an end to the conflict, that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Dealing with conflict head-on can be difficult. Sometimes, choosing not to engage at all can seem like the better option. In some instances, it is. But if it’s something that causes you stress and anxiety, don’t be afraid to speak up. 

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