Productive Conflict: Be Aware of Your Own Feelings

What happens when you feel a conflict brewing?

Does your heart speed up? Does your brow begin to sweat? Do your hands get clammy? Do you swallow more?

These are all physical signs of stress, and they’re connected to your emotional state. When in stress, adrenaline and cortisol increase, triggering the physical responses above. Your brain and adrenal glands secrete norepinephrine, which puts your whole body on high alert.

Your body doesn’t know the difference between workplace stress about the company branding campaign, home-life stress, where that argument with your mom about the family reunion location is still bothering you, or danger stress, when you hear the smoke alarms begin to scream in your house. They all create the same fight or fight cocktail.

So what’s the difference?

Our feelings—inadequacy, anger, frustration, fear, annoyance, overwhelmed, hurt, and humiliation.

When you hear smoke alarms in your house, use your flight response. That’s what it’s there for. But in the other situations, neither fighting nor fleeing are your best responses.

Then what are your best responses?

First, ask yourself these questions: what are you feeling at the moment? Is it fear? If so, of what? Is it insecurity? If so, what do you have lose/gain? Is it anger? If so, why?

Being aware of your own feelings and why you are feeling them is the first step in formulating a productive response. Knee-jerk responses are not thought-out responses. They’re also not productive and most often lead to an unwanted outcome. When we are aware of our feelings, though, we are more aware of our words and actions. We are able to separate our initial response from a productive response.

Here’s a formula to consider:

event + response = outcome

We generally don’t have control over the event, but we always have control over our responses. When we are aware of our feelings and can respond with tact and respect, we are better able to influence the desired outcome.

Being aware of your own feelings may be more natural for those with the D style and C style than for those with the S style and i style.

This is the 16th post in an 18-part series discussing positive conflict behaviors. Effective leaders encourage productive conflict and discourage unproductive conflict. Follow along as we explore the positive impact of these behaviors.

Part 1: Finding the Root of the Problem
Part 2: Apologize
Part 3: Listen to Differing Perspectives
Part 4: Bring in a Neutral Perspective
Part 5: Separate Emotion from Fact
Part 6: Own Your Contributions
Part 7: Offer Reassurance
Part 8: Find a Compromise
Part 9: Give Others Time and Space
Part 10: Acknowledge the Feelings of Others
Part 11: Revisit Unresolved Issues
Part 12: Pause & Reflect
Part 13: Be Flexible
Part 14: Communicate Respectfully
Part 15: Be Open and Honest

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