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8 Ways to Flip Your Fear of Conflict

Anxiety Spikes

Anxiety spikes happen when something triggers us during an argument, usually when what that we care about feels threatened.

We need to be aware of these spikes to guide us into the emotional aspect of the argument, rather than only focusing on information.


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8 Ways to Flip Your Fear of Conflict

8 Ways to Flip Your Fear of Conflict


Key Ideas

Disagreement Is The New Reality

The ability to have productive disagreements is a superpower.

But disagreement or an argument usually has toxicity associated with it, with judgment, self-protection and a sense of conflict.

Aligning the Argument

In a disagreement, often certain crucial information isn't available or isn't clearly understood by either person. We need to ask ourselves if:

  • The argument is about something that can be verified.
  • If it matters to you (meaningful).
  • If it is useful.
Then we need to make sure that the other person aligns and comes on the same page.

    Anxiety Spikes

    Anxiety spikes happen when something triggers us during an argument, usually when what that we care about feels threatened.

    We need to be aware of these spikes to guide us into the emotional aspect of the argument, rather than only focusing on information.

    Speak From Your Own Experience

    A common mistake during arguments is when we speak on behalf of other people and groups.
    Arguments then become a free-for-all, as anyone can jump in and argue back. Also, we tend to exaggerate, oversimplify and stereotype when we speak outside of our own experience, making our position in the disagreement vulnerable.

    Don't Neglect The Emotional Part

    Neglecting the emotional part of the argument and focusing solely on facts and information is a common blunder.

    A better way is to ask open-ended questions and try to find the root cause of the argument. For example, one could ask: “This clearly matters to you, can you help me understand why?”

    A Wider Field Of View

    Keeping an open mind gives you a wider field of view.

    Turn off the clinical brain that just wants knowable answers quickly, and see the world through the other's perspective, noticing things you may have blocked or overlooked.

    Discard Your Biases

    Biases are your ready-made encyclopedia of all the answers you need to prove yourself right, which can be a disaster in any argument.

    Hold off your biases and try to find growth and new perspectives that come out of a productive disagreement. Take the conversation as a learning opportunity.

    The Way and the Place

    Disagreements cannot be resolved over Slack or Email. Try to do them in person, or at least over the phone.

    Make sure your environment is neutral, and if anything can hamper the discussion, change the venue.


    Aporia is an ancient Greek concept of realizing that our interpretations and beliefs don't lead us to the truth.

    Winning an argument isn't the goal, and true wisdom is to have big, deep conversations that help us grow and connect.


    The Realms Of An Argument

    There are three different realms of an argument:

    • Head-based arguments are about the truth, based on facts and verifiable information.
    • Heart-based arguments are about...
    Cognitive Dissonance

    Pay close attention to what ‘spikes’ up your emotions, those triggers that are felt when someone challenges you, or provides you with information that is new to you or does not align with your reality. 

    This cognitive dissonance (the state of holding two or more contradictory beliefs) may be your chance to update your expectations, instead of making the world fit in them.

    Ask Questions And Listen

    When you're having an argument, there are two different views involved, and maybe two different realities. Instead of making it a black and white, right or wrong argument, try to ask genuine questions to help you understand what the other person is thinking.

    Calm down, create mental space, and have a pleasant and relaxing disagreement, after you take the time to listen to the other person's point of view, instead of reacting impulsively or angrily.

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    Paul Graham's disagreement hierarchy
    • DH0. Name-calling: the lowest level of argument.
    • DH1. Ad hominem: attackung the person rather than the point they are making.
    • DH2...
    Seek to understand

    People tend to disagree when they don't understand each other. That does not mean you have to agree, just that you're open to hearing them out.

    When you come to an understanding t...

    Look beyond your own triggers

    Whatever may have happened in your past, you have to find a way to get past your triggers and see that you're in a new situation with a person who doesn't mean you harm. What's triggered is usually fear and awareness of one's limitations.

    Look for similarities, not differences

    Look for common ground. When you concentrate on differences the space grows wider, but when you seek out what you have in common it helps bridge the gap.

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    Disagreement is healthy

    It is essential for success. It’s the hallmark of an engaged and involved team member. And it opens the way for testing and improving new ideas.

    It should also be treated as a chance t...

    The art of disagreement

    Mastering the art of considerate disagreement means expressing your beliefs without shutting down the discussion or angering the other side.

    For this to happen, you have to listen more, be willing to change your perspective on disagreement and learn to better your arguments.

    Ed Catmull
    Ed Catmull
    “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”

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    Interpersonal Issues

    When it happens in the workplace, it can reduce productivity and make a dent in morale. 

    It takes on the shape that one person, or a group of people, frustrates or hampers another person...

    Types of Interpersonal Conflict
    • Policy Conflicts: disagreements about how to deal with a situation that affects both parties. 
    • Value Conflicts: they are typically pretty difficult to resolve because they are more ingrained.
    • Ego Conflicts: losing an argument, or being thought of as wrong, can actually damage a person’s self-esteem. This is like a power struggle.
    What Causes Interpersonal Conflict
    • Frustration and stress
    • Misunderstandings
    • Lack of planning
    • Bad staff selection
    • Poor Communication

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    Scheduling your day

    A good daily schedule is a blueprint for a successful life. 

    Knowing what we’re doing and when empowers us with a sense of purpose, meaning, and focus.

    Scheduling styles
    When it comes to our daily schedule, most people fall into one of two camps:
    • The Overscheduler: Their days are determined from the moment they wake up to their evening routine.
    • The Minimalist: They’ve got one or two recurring events, but a whole lot of white space so they’re “free” (at least on paper) for long stretches of work.
    Your most important work

    The most successful people consistently get their most important work done first.

    Build recurring time for your most important work in the morning, before you start anything else. Your energy levels are naturally higher in the morning, but completing a meaningful task first thing has also a domino effect that pushes you through the day.

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    Constructive engagement
    Constructive engagement

    Constructive engagement involves cultivating goodwill between the parties involved.

    Fishbowl discussions

    This exercise involves members of one party sitting in a circle with the other group sitting around them. The outside group listens quietly while the inside group answers a set of questions.

    After each side answered and listened, the moderator brings them together for conversations about what everyone learned. Data suggests that despite strong views, participants change their attitude toward one another for the better.


    We regularly find ourselves engaging with people whose core beliefs and values differ from our own. We might want to convince them to adopt our point of view, but this can lead to unproductive conflict.

    However, people who disagree passionately can be easily trained to have productive interactions.

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    Lockdown Anxiety and Technology
    • The new virus has forced the entire world in an unprecedented lockdown.
    • In these times of a looming unknown future, existential fear and separation from friends and family, millions ...
    Get Everything Online

    Online mental health therapies may make people stick to it longer, but it’s long-term benefits are still questionable, according to a study.

    This mandatory Quarantine mode, which can last for weeks or months, is making us more dependent on anything and everything online, with smartphones being the potential gateway to online mental health care.

    Make small talk

    You communicate a genuine interest when you inquire or listen to the small details that make up your partner’s day. It’s those insignificant moments that make up the reality of our lives.

    Shared experiences
    We feel closer to others when we can talk about the experiences we have in common. 

    Words are not necessary for shared feelings to improve a relationship. Just doing something at the same time—riding bikes, watching a movie, or eating dessert, intensifies both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.

    Listen carefully
    Knowing that you are being heard is one of the experiences most likely to cement a feeling of connection to another. 

    Use a technique called “active listening” - a form of listening in which you acknowledge that you understand what is being said. 

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    Communication needs improvement if:
    • You are having trouble getting through to your spouse; you talk about the same issue over and over again without coming to an agreement.
    • You seem unable to have a decent conversation...
    Just Communicate

    It is difficult to discuss some sensitive subjects, and we are tempted to avoid them. Other times we simply expect our partners to know what we are doing, thinking or what we want.

    It is much better to get things out in the open regularly rather than waiting to have big rows that might damage your relationship.

    Listen actively

    Be curious about your partner’s point of view rather than trying to anticipate every situation. Active listening involves:

    • Paying attention to your partner.
    • Tolerating your silence.
    • Paying attention to your partner’s nonverbal communication.
    • Reflecting and paraphrasing what your partner is saying: I hear you say you feel angry when I ….. Is that what you are saying?

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