Managing Growing Tensions

 In Conflict management training

When we notice tensions rising, we too often avoid bringing it up instead of acknowledging it. We sit on it and it just grows, until we can no longer contain it. Have you been there? I thought so. Who hasn’t. 

Right now many of us are stuck inside with our family or roommates and things can get tense. Sharing confined spaces around the clock is tough, let alone during a pandemic. When tensions go unaddressed in our spaces, the safety and comfort of those spaces quickly dissolve. The result ends up being that we spend the majority of our energy avoiding people/spaces, containing our emotions, analyzing and/or catastrophizing every detail, and the list goes on. We each have our own approach. What’s notable is that the tension grows and starts to feel as though it takes up all the space, both physically and otherwise. 

I’ve put together some tips for folks who are finding themselves in this situation currently, and also for those who aren’t there right now, but may be in the future! I don’t know when all these restrictions will be lifted so it’s best to be proactive and plan for conflicts. These tips work for non pandemic situations too, of course!

Acknowledge the tensions when they’re small.

At that point tensions haven’t yet taken up that much space; we’re in a much more compassionate place, and more likely to be able to stay in dialogue. The tension hasn’t consumed us. When we approach tensions when they’re small it’s easier to find the room for collaboration, compromise and forgiveness. It’s tempting to avoid ‘small’ tensions, but be realistic with yourself as to whether you can live with this if the situation gets worse and the tension grows. 

Alone time when stuck inside with other people is essential.

Create and carve out space for alone time. A morning walk, waking up earlier or going to bed later than the others, designating quiet time a few hours a day.  Ask for quiet and alone time. Get noise cancelling headphones. Create a meditation ritual. Get creative. What is important is that you find time to be alone and decompress and come down from potential high levels of activation.

Be alone, together.

Sometimes it’s not possible to take the alone time we need, which can honestly feel infuriating. Nothing makes my temper shorter than feeling like I’m suffocated and unable to take any time for myself. This is often the case for parents or for many people living in small quarters. In this case I highly suggest doing something alone, together. For example you can set up a designated time to do activities, perhaps in the same room, but in silence. Listen to a podcast while touching, but not talking. You can watch something in silence, work on crafts in silence, read in silence, etc. We can do our own thing but in different rooms or if there’s only one room, on different sides of it. We have to get creative and the best way to do that is to talk about our needs and strategize together. 

Break the situation into steps.

If you live in a space where the tensions have already surpassed ‘mild or moderate’ and are at a point where resolving them is going to take some real patience and effort, my best advice is to break the situation down into steps. 

First: acknowledge the issue and that you want to work through it.

Next: Create intentional space and time to discuss the issue. 

When you do discuss the issue, create your action plan.

If dialogue doesn’t feel possible without external support, mediators are available to facilitate dialogues online. You may not need an in depth mediation, you may just need someone to help facilitate your conversation so everyone feels heard, and so an action plan can be implemented.

I’ll be making a video shortly about how to have a successful dialogue when working through beyond moderate house tensions. They’ll be available on my instagram.

For now, I remain available to support people with mediation and coaching during this lockdown period. Please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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