Conflicts with others can be one of the greatest sources of stress and difficulty in our lives.
Therefore, if we can learn to reduce conflicts, and also handle them better if they do arise, this can represent a huge shift in the quality of our lives. It can mean deeper and more enjoyable connections, more peace of mind and greater mental strength.
In this episode of Mentally Stronger, I’ll be exploring one simple method of reducing conflict in your life – switching your mindset from furious to curious.
Curiosity offers a different perspective that can diffuse the entire situation and leave you feeling calmer, more empowered and more in control.
Keep reading to learn more or listen to the full episode below.
What are the causes of conflicts?
Let’s say someone pulls out in traffic suddenly in front of you. What do you feel at that moment? How do you react?
And let’s say you’re in a long line somewhere and someone walks to the front of the line and straight to the cashier. What goes through your mind right away?
You’re meeting your partner for dinner and they are 20 mins late. No phone call. You’re sitting there in the cafe – 20 mins waiting. What comes up for you?
For most of us the knee-jerk response to all of these situations is anger towards the other. The human mind seems to be wired in such a way that we go directly from feeling hurt, threatened or put out in some way, to anger and blame and resentment. It happens almost automatically.
Sometimes, all it takes is someone forgetting to take the garbage out or says a few clumsy words and so in that moment we get that first pang of unpleasant feeling, whether it’s hurt or disappointment. And then we almost instantly resort to anger.
When our stories get us stuck in anger
What we often don’t notice is how after that initial moment of unpleasant feeling our feelings turned into stories in our heads, and then those stories turned into feelings of anger, and then escalated into conflict.
So for instance, after the initial moment you see the garbage wasn’t taken out and you feel a bit of disappointment. Then you start to think to yourself “this person is so selfish, they don’t care about anyone but themselves.” Now those thoughts breed anger and you’re likely to communicate with this other person with alot of blame, and perhaps even end up in a big fight.
This kind of thing happens in relationships, friendship and families. It happens at work, in traffic, and with neighbours. These unconscious reactions can lead to long standing conflicts where people don’t talk to each other for years. It can lead to broken families and toxic workplaces. It can even lead to violence and wars.
So, how can we overcome this tendency towards anger and then conflict?
The answer lies in being curious instead of furious.
How to be curious, not furious
When we are feeling put out, hurt or disappointed by another person’s actions, what we tend to do is assume bad intentions. So our mind tends to tell stories about what a terrible, idiotic, rude, horrible person they are and we assume a whole bunch of stuff about what their actions mean. That tends to then make us angry.
Instead, we can switch the focus to being curious in these two ways:
- Become curious about what’s going on inside you
Firstly, you can become curious about where your own feelings are coming from. Notice the narrative your mind is creating about the other person’s character, intentions and motivations and how that might be affecting your state of mind.
2. Become curious about what’s going on with the other person
And secondly become curious about what might be happening for the other person. Instead of assuming you know their motivations and intentions, remind yourself that you don’t really know. And consider the different possibilities that may be happening for them.
For instance the next time someone pulls out in front of you in traffic, forgets to do something you wanted done, arrives late or makes a mistake, consider the possibilities that may be happening for them.
- Maybe they forgot because they have alot of worries on their mind
- Maybe they couldn’t do it for reasons they could not help
- Maybe they are having a really bad day (we all do sometimes)
- Maybe they are in a rush for a really good reason
- It’s possible that they just made a silly mistake but didn’t mean any harm (again, just like we all do sometimes)
- Maybe they were trying to look after their own needs in ways that were really important.
So next time someone lets you down, puts you out or causes some kind of hurt or makes a mistake and your first instinct is to paint them as a villain in your mind, see if you can slow things down, and become curious not furious and then see how that might change things and make a positive difference in the quality of your life.
As you reframe your thinking like this you’ll let go of conflict, hostility and anger and make space for more understanding, happiness and harmony in your life.
Thank You For Listening
I really appreciate you choosing to listen or read about mental strength with me. If you found benefit from today’s episode/post and you think others might benefit from hearing about it, go ahead and share it using the social media buttons below.
I would also be super grateful if you would consider taking a minute or two to leave an honest review and rating for the show on Apple Podcasts. They’re extremely helpful when it comes to reaching our audience and I read each and every one personally!
Finally, remember to subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts to make sure that you never miss an episode.