How to Avoid Conflict in Times of High Stress?

Everyone is trying to come to terms with the fact that life as we know it is changing fast and it is changing on a daily basis. New information is coming out about COVID-19 all the time and nobody really knows what the near future is going to look like. This comes with uncertainty and fear as we are seeing all around us. It is undeniable that the impact of this virus will be felt by everyone.  As human beings when we experience a real threat or we perceive something as a threat we go into a flight fright or freeze response. This response was designed for our survival to keep us safe when we lived in the wild a long time ago. We still have this automatic response even though we do not have to hide from wild animals any longer.

When I work with people that are in a conflict situation it is my job as a mediator to create a safe environment for people to have conversations in,  so people do not go into a flight, fright or freeze response and are able to make good decisions. The reasons I do that is because when we are in our flight, fright or freeze response our brain is not operating at its normal capacity and we are not able to make the best decisions. The threat of the coronavirus is probably causing a similar response in many people and we see that play out at the moment with supermarket shelves being empty and people getting into fights at the supermarket over buying toilet paper. 

The situation as it is is stressful enough and people getting into conflict is only going to add to the stress of this situation. Plus now is the time to connect and have good communication so we can solve problems as they come up and adapt to our changing environment. So how can we deal with this situation best and avoid conflict, communicate better and not make decisions you might regret later?

Tips to help you Avoid Conflict in Periods of Stress

  • Check in with yourself: What are your stress levels like at the moment and are you in a state of flight, fight or freeze? Often you can feel it rising in your body. Be aware of your state of mind.
  • Only make decisions when you can think clearly: Do not make decisions when you are in flight, fright or freeze response for your business or family. It is highly likely that these decisions won’t be good decisions
  • Calm Down: Get yourself out of your flight, fright or freeze response by calming your brain down. You can do this by breathing in and out slowly. Focusing on your body and what you feel and letting go of the story that you are running in your mind which is causing your stress response.
  • Remove yourself: If you cannot calm yourself down in the moment, take yourself out of the situation and calm yourself down before you have the conversation you need to have or make any important decisions.
  • Be considerate of others: Be aware of the state of mind of the person you are dealing with. Are they in a flight, fright or freeze response?  If they are you know you cannot have the conversation you want to have as they are now not able to make good decisions. Do not make them wrong for it, it happens to all of us but explain to them that they need to calm down so both your brains are fully functional and you can have a constructive conversation and solve the problems that you need to solve


Lisanne Iriks
Conflict Resolution & Mediation Specialist

If you are interested in any of Lisanne’s workshops or reading about her background, please visit this link.