Dealing with conflict

Don’t you love to win an argument? I do. There’s nothing like the taste of victory and what a rare victory it is for a husband. I kid you not, I once lost a fight to my now former wife…. in my head. I couldn’t believe it. Not a word was spoken, she didn’t even know I was upset. I guess I worked through the entire length and breadth of my argument and realized that I was wrong, but I digress.

Arguing with anyone is such an emotionally charged situation. Many a truth is said in the heat of battle, much of which we wish we could take back but alas it’s too late. Truth be told, once the emotions have subsided, we realize what the other person was really trying to convey. What hurt they were trying to express, and then only do we apologize.

Ladies & gentlemen, welcome to fight club. And unlike the first rule in the popular 1999 movie, we’re going to talk about fight club.  So let’s dive into the mechanics of what happens in an argument.

Fight or flight

The problem with all of us is that we somehow convince ourselves that we’re purely logical beings. That we’re able to separate emotion from the equation, not so. No matter how logical we are, there’s always that emotional element that trips us up. We feel threatened easily and when we do, we get defensive. Even in the face of seemingly obvious logic, we’ll hold our position when we feel threatened.

Let me give you an example, I once received an email warning people to not buy fruit from local vendors as the HIV virus was being injected into the fruit. According to the story, a little boy ate one of these infected fruits and suddenly fell ill. After numerous tests at the hospital, they discovered that he now has aids. I couldn’t help but wonder, since when do people contract HIV and immediately fall ill. To my knowledge, you can be healthy for years before your health starts to deteriorate.

I, being the person that I am, thought it prudent to respond to my co-worker and share my findings. Some of you are shaking your heads, don’t judge me, we’re all on a journey. Anyway, much to my surprise, my co-worker held her position that the report was true despite that fact that it’s clearly illogical and neither was I accusing her of writing this false report, she merely shared it. Fast forward to three years later, I was in a different company and,  lo and behold, I receive the same email from a co-worker there. I wondered if the situation could be replicated, intrigued by the opportunity for a social experiment, I responded to this co-worker. Guess, what happened? Yup, fight or flight kicked in and this mild-mannered co-worker defended the erroneous report.

We’re simply not as logical as we’d care to admit. That is why debating any topic is totally pointless. Two parties cannot pick a side and take apart each other’s arguments without someone feeling dejected in the end. You cannot sway anyone with logic alone. In fact, the opposite is true, when you take a stance and someone obliterates it with logic. You’re more likely to cling to this position because of how the other person made you feel. Emotions play a huge role in influencing people.

Logic be gone

Whether it be at work, with your spouse or even a stranger, never let the situation escalate into fight or flight mode. The second the person feels threatened, the adrenaline kicks in and logic goes out the window. Fight or flight is controlled by the limbic system, a different part of the brain, whereas higher thinking occurs in the cerebral cortex. We go into a defensive state to deal with the perceived threat. Once this happens, it’s pretty much game over, your opponent won’t be able to listen to any rational thought thereafter. Have you ever noticed, how people can fight over completely different issues and not even realize it? They just continue to shout at each other. That’s fight or flight in full swing. Try to avoid this situation.

Due to technological advances, we may have the means of understanding why certain things occur like which parts of the brain control different functions. But the Bible had this wisdom locked down for approx 4000 years and gives us access to some of the greatest minds in mankind. There are many scriptures that warn us about our tongues. For instance, in Proverbs 15:1-4 (NIV)

1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. 3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. 4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.

As you can see, all that we’re discussing is in the Bible. Let’s look at the practical application:

Defusing that emotional bomb

bomb-2025548_640If you can catch the situation early enough, before it fully activates, you should apologize. Uh oh, did I just say the A word, as bad as a cuss word when we feel wronged? Brace yourself, the ‘S’ word is coming up. Just say you’re Sorry and mean it. It’s not about who’s right at this moment. It’s about having a constructive conversation which won’t be possible when fight or flight is engaged. The key point here is that you need to be sincere. If not, don’t bother because that will only make matters worse. The only way to be sincere is to stay calm when it starts and look for what’s hurting the other person before you also get riled up.

Influence Impaired

Here’s a very important scripture, Proverbs 18:19 (NLT)

An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.


Irrespective of who did what and who is right. The moment you get into an argument, the person that feels attacked is going to rationalize in their mind why they are justified and they will tell themselves and others that you are being unreasonable or a jerk. That is why an argument is the most counterproductive activity that you can ever engage in. Perhaps venting will help you feel better but if you have to deal with this person on an ongoing basis, it will be harder to influence them positively with each negative experience that they have with you. People always remember how you made them feel. And you will not be able to influence them positively. What’s more important? Venting your frustration or influencing someone?

How to keep your cool

Your ability to stay calm is determined by how well rested you are. No, I do not mean relaxing in front of the TV. I’m talking about actual 8 hours of sleep. No, not cat naps… Proper deep sleep. Trust me on this one, when we first started the business, I used to work until 2 am and get up at 5 am. I turned into a raving lunatic. Every little thing used to set me off. Yes, there may have been issues with work. That’s life, problems arise all the time but when you’re tired your brain can’t handle the stress and you’ll explode. This is a surefire way to damage relationships… probably permanently. From personal experience, if I get less than 5 hours of sleep, I know I’ll be crabby that day. You’ll be amazed at what you can handle/tolerate with enough sleep. Try chamomile tea before bed, it’s a natural sedative.

In Conclusion, despite all that I’ve said and your best efforts to stay in control, there will be times when you lose it. That’s life. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Each day offers us a chance at a new beginning. Unfortunately, we learn best through experience. So to all those, I’ve fought with, I’m sorry. Really, I am. To the rest of you, if I start acting up, just tell me to go to bed. 😉

Take Care.

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