Neuroscience

Staying Cool During Conflict

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You know how when you walk into a room full of people you can immediately sense the mood? No one needs to tell you, you just know. What you might not always consciously realize though is that you quickly adjust your own mood to fit the atmosphere. See how long you can keep up a cheery attitude around a bunch of forlorn souls.

Mirror cells, the neurons that have to do with empathy, are probably responsible for our ability to quickly and effortlessly feel whatever it is others are feeling, and while this ability is indispensable for authentic human connection its shadow side is that during times of conflict we often find ourselves drawn into the emotionally charged situation.

Staying cool during conflict can be incredibly difficult, despite your best efforts, because your mirror cells work against you, picking up on and mimicking the emotional state of the other. Your best defense is mindful awareness. Make the decision to be super vigilant any time you enter conflict. Notice and name a change in your emotional state as it is occurring. You might not be able to actively influence the fact that it changes but you always retain the power to respond to this change as you see fit. If you are able to recognize emotions that are due to mirroring you’ll gain a powerful tool because you will be able to assess exactly what it is the other person is feeling.

Plus you’ll be less likely to respond in an emotionally charged way, even if you’re feeling emotionally charged, because the energy of mindfulness will help you gain control over that emotional energy. You’re almost always better served during an argument by responding in a matter of fact way, cool and collected. People who yell the loudest are usually the ones who look the most foolish, especially when the people they are yelling at don’t fall into the trap of yelling back and are able to keep it together. Being sensitive to that natural propensity to take on the emotional state of the other is your best defense against the consequences of this phenomenon since awareness always gives you more options for how to respond.

Greetings I'm Michael, the owner of Evolution Counseling and the author of all the articles on this site. I got my master's degree from Seattle University in community mental heath counseling and have committed myself to advancing my knowledge of psychology and to evolving my own philosophical system ever since. In addition to the content on this site I offer online coaching using Skype. If you'd like to learn more about it click on the online coaching tab or if you think you'd like to set up a session send me an email at evolve@evolutioncounseling.com.

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