Normally I coach leaders to resolve conflicts of all sizes, or facilitate resolution with them. I got to thinking about the strategies I teach (and use myself) in conflicts and realized that the current situation is putting those strategies to good use. If you’re rock solid and don’t need any, pass them on to someone who does, or engage your team members in a conversation to strengthen everyone’s ability to deal with a high stress situation in the best way possible.

What we know about conflict or crisis is it poses a threat which in turn stimulates the primitive brain to call RED ALERT! The body is flooded with adrenaline, blood leaves the brain, breathing becomes shallow, heart rate speeds up … this is great for fleeing the tiger but not so good for resolving conflict or for making good decisions in a constantly changing and suddenly uncertain world. Do you know anyone who is on high alert right now? You, maybe? Try these:

  1. Find your feet. When I was inspired to write this I was standing in the shower (TMI?) asking myself, “Do you know where your feet are?” The simple act of focusing on my feet glued to the floor offered some relief to the endless stream of thoughts my brain is hell bent on producing. Not that thinking isn’t useful but if my brain is trying to puzzle out what will happen two seconds from now, two weeks, two months, two years, TWENTY YEARS … well, you get the picture. This works for conflict too. Ground yourself and get out of your head.
  2. Breathe. The body breathes whether we will it or not, but the high alert condition of a conflict or a crisis interferes with the really useful breathing. Deep breathing. Belly breathing. Right now, take a deep breath in (I’ll wait). At the top, hold it for a moment. Now release it slowly to a count of four. I’ll do it too. Do it again. Again. Did you do it? Or rush through it? Or say to yourself, “Who has time for this?” You want your team members breathing, feet on the floor, hydrating. Show them the way. You feel better after three deep breaths, don’t you?
  3. Call in your superpower of objectivity. In a conflict situation I coach people to say what they see not what they think about it. Give a concrete example not an emotional declaration. Same thing today. Are you or anyone in your organization feeling panic right now? (I guarantee someone is, they just might not be showing it.) One of my clients still has a job but the company just had a significant pay cut and folks are freaking out. I asked if he had worked out the numbers. Where are you today? In debt? Does every dime that comes in go right out to non-negotiable expenses? Any savings? You need the number (or other facts) to know if it’s a matter of cutting extravagances or begging creditors for mercy, or worse. There’s a big difference but without information it’s just a cloud of freak-attack. Look at the facts.
  4. Ask the right questions. Related to Number 3, instead of Oh No! What’s going to happen to us? it’s more helpful to ask, “Where are we right now?” Get a good solid picture of that. Then ask, “What is the NEXT logical step?” Not the 142 steps reaching into the future, just the next one, and make it a concrete, actionable step. Do that step and then ask it again. Like shampooing, repeat.

This is a good time to build the discipline of clear and level headedness, of responding not reacting, of replacing chit chat with meaningful connections, and acknowledging what we have going for us any given moment. If you got this far and want to have a conversation, please call. I’m a human more than a website and what’s meaningful to me is supporting other people in times of trouble. Call me. 831-588-6191 (Pacific time zone)

Photo credit: Robin Benzrihem for Unsplash