[posted on behalf of Duncan Gordon, SCCR Trainer]
Why do we sometimes act irrationally in conflict situations?
This may seem like an easy answer, i.e. emotional overload and we lose control…but why?
Just reading an article related to this highlighting that when we feel unfairly treated we can react strongly, emotionally and in ways that can be harmful, in addition to stating a commitment or course of action that is then difficult to change or retract and continue to act it out (non-rational escalation of commitment) The article stated that “they are just people who let themselves get trapped by two natural responses that almost all of us fall prey to at some point in our lives.” Do you recognise this, I certainly do and in particularly the first instance about perceived fairness/justice, though I’m not as reactive as in my younger days! The article goes on to highlight what we can do to help us manage this reactive response so that we do not add to the escalation of conflict. I would sum it up as- - stop, and think before you respond, you can find yourself trapped if you verbalise a commitment or course of action, before you know all the facts. A great ‘stop’ statement when you start to feel the anger is “be curious, not furious”. Also, try to relax the body so it does get pumped up into this angry, threatening presence. I know this can be difficult as the adrenaline is flowing but deep breaths, shift your focus, think “curious not furious”, and slowing things down, will help.
What other techniques or scenarios have people used to manage ‘irrational behaviour’ in conflict, or how do you manage your own ‘red mist’, it would be great to hear from you, you might inspire others who are having difficulty managing that emotional overload.