Resolving Conflict – Timing is Key

Disclaimer: I have a long way to go myself with managing conflict. I never find it easy but on this post I will share what I have found to be useful myself. If anyone has any tips on resolving conflict then please leave them in the comments.

When we’ve had conflict with a friend (or indeed anyone else) it is often painful for both parties. It took me years to realise that it is really important to pick the right time to make up (if that’s what you want to do).

In regards to neurology (the study of the brain) we have a reptilian / ancient part of our brain, and we have a newer part called the neocortex. The reptilian part of our mind is the most powerful part and when it’s firing it will usually override the neocortex, which deals with more rational thinking. So for example, if you have low blood sugar and you have to choose between a banana or a piece of chocolate cake, the limbic system (the ancient part) will win out. You might have been in this situation before, having thoughts like “I should have the banana because it’s better for me” or “I’m trying to lose weight so I shouldn’t have the chocolate cake”, but instead of going with these thoughts you completely ignore them and just can’t resist the chocolate cake. This is the ancient part of your brain winning out. If you didn’t have low blood sugar at this point then you’d have a much higher chance of resisting the chocolate cake, and your rational mind would have a great chance of winning out.

I Completely Lost It

You know when the ancient brain has won, because you’ll describe it afterwards like:

  • “I completely lost it”
  • “I couldn’t help myself”
  • “I lost my temper”

Summary: So when we are feeling hurt or angry the ancient part of the brain, which is much more powerful than the neocortex, wins out.

When to Make Up

The best time to make up after an argument or conflict is when the dust has settled for both parties. i.e. when your ancient mind (powerful emotions) have settled down. If you or the other person is angry, rational communication is highly unlikely to happen, and you will probably end up even more angry with each other as things will escalate, or point scoring might occur.

If you wait however, you will have a greater chance of making up.

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