• Michelle James

Handling Conflict In Isolation

We are living in unprecedented times right now. The Coronavirus pandemic has forced the majority of the planet's population to go into isolation. The mere anticipation of being in isolation with the entire family can make most people very anxious. Some family dynamics can be quite volatile, being in the same space with certain family members such as in-laws or even your own spouse and kids can cause issues (time sharing of the TV, distribution of food, etc.). It is amazing to see how much kids eat when they don’t have to go to school! The fact that you can’t buy alcohol for the duration of the isolation period can leave some adults a bit “on edge”, but for some it could be a good thing to “tighten the reigns” and maybe even slow down. Some married/partner couples who normally work all day and only see their spouses and children early in morning and later in the afternoon and possibly see their in-laws very infrequently might find it quite strange all being in the same space at the same time. Some reactions can be positive and pleasant for the first week or so but conflict is inevitable. Many relationships might be in jeopardy when spending 24/7 together (which is not the norm) and can bring to light many issues that have been “brushed under the rug”, forcing them to be dealt with. This is not particularly a bad thing. Getting everything out in the open and dealing with it head on can relieve a lot of resentment towards each other, but there is a time and a place for everything. Things are already uncertain and the added stress of conflict with your spouse or family member can make the entire isolation unpleasant for the rest of the family who are in isolation with you.

Conflict in isolation is inevitable but there are some ways to lessen the drama: 1. Listen Most conflicts start when one member feels like they are not being heard or understood. Stop and listen to what your loved one is saying and acknowledge to them that you are really listening. Listen to them without thinking about how you are going to respond or react. Then once they have finished talking, take a moment to breathe. 2. Process and stay calm (BREATHE) Process what you have just heard, BREATHE and respond only if you have something productive to say. This is not the time to play the blame game, it won’t get you the response you want. Don’t lose your temper. Once you lose your temper the conflict will escalate. If you feel that the tension is rising, take a moment, leave the room and BREATHE. 3. Respond with something productive Say things like, “How would you like this to change?”, “What do you think we can do about this or that?”, “What do you think consequences will the be if we took that action?" These questions show the speaker that they have been heard and you are acknowledging their concerns and frustrations.

4. STABEN Another way to deal with your conflict is called STABEN (by Dr Jennie Byrne) S = Source

  • Who is the Source of the conflict?

  • Identify the person or group you have a conflict with.

T = Time and Place

  • This is the most important part to think about.

  • When is the best time to have a discussion about what is “bugging you”?

  • If you don’t pick the right time and place, dealing with the issues and coming to a decision will not happen.

A = Amicable Approach

  • You start with the positive. When you are talking to someone and you want them to listen to you, you start by saying something positive about them. It can be anything as long as is genuine and positive. Sometimes this is really difficult and you are really mad about something and you can’t think of anything positive to say, but is so important because you want the person’s positive attention so they are not defensive, but receptive to what you want to say to them.

B = Behaviour

  • This is when you are going to identify the behaviour that was a problem.

  • Be very specific but calm. Most people like to clump all the conflict issues they had with another all in one huge ticking bomb and then try to resolve them all at once. This does not tend to work so well.

  • Putting numbers on thing can also help. Instead of saying: “You never do the dishes” rather say: “You did the dishes once last week and I did them 5 times last week”.

E = Emotion

  • Whatever you are feeling is what you must say.

  • “Because of this behavior I felt ………………………………………..”

  • It important that you use the word “ I “ and don’t make is about him or her.

N = Need

  • What do I need to end this conflict?

  • What do you want to gain by going in to the conflict conversation? What do you want to change about the situation? How would you like to go about changing the situation?

If all else fails and you just can’t resolve certain issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me and set up a Skype appointment to talk. My Skype ID is michelle_james_5 Stay Safe and BREATHE...


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