Managing My Temper: 7 Steps Towards Healthier Conflict Resolution

DISCLAIMER: By no means have I mastered being less reactive. I am writing this post, not as an expert, but as someone learning. In my Birthday post, I shared that anger continues to be one of my biggest strongholds. I suppress it most times, but I can still go from 0 to 100 real quick, and not even know what just happened. After taking a conflict resolution course last spring, I did some soul searching and reflection to be more intentional with my reactions when communicating with others.  I no longer want to be okay with a reckless, uncontrollable temper that ruins my testimony and character. Here's what I'm learning.
Know your patterns and triggers.
Self-awareness is the starting line to anger management and becoming less reactive. After being constantly drained from certain recurring situations, I began to notice there were certain people I interacted with regularly OR certain topics discussed that, inevitably, made me angry.

What were/are my triggers?
  • Engaging with people who have differing opinions that seem SO IGNORANT
  • Engaging with people who I felt devalued something I've struggled/fought to overcome because of the emotional-investment in a certain topic 
  • When I felt someone wasn't seeing my perspective
  • When someone questions me or a decision I made because it triggers insecurity which has been a long time struggle
  • When something isn't done my way or on my timeline and I disagree with their way #spoiled #facepalm

Sometimes I'm able to catch myself before being triggered, but sometimes, I'm not. Because anger is such a heavy and draining feeling, I genuinely don't like carrying that weight. I'll find myself asking,"How did you even get to this point?" That jump starts the reflection to be more aware of what triggers my anger. Awareness, know matter how painful it may be, has to be your first step.

Anticipate potentially hostile conversations, ESPECIALLY if emotionally invested.
Because I know my patterns and triggers, I can better anticipate when I'm more likely to go off. There are standing meetings at work that I know I may have more difficulty in than others because of the personalities of people in them. I almost always pray before going in to them. There are situations and people at church that I may struggle with. I often have to pray about engaging with certain groups because of ideologies that I'm emotionally invested against. Anticipating these environments or conversations, I pray beforehand; specifically for my reaction. I also pray that anything I convey can be done detached from the emotion that would result in me coming off angry and hostile. I also pray that IF I unintentionally react in a hostile way, that the other party will know my intention was pure and not hold it against me.

Stop yourself from preparing a response while someone's still expressing their thoughts to you. Take time to listen and process what's being said.
#CLAPBACKGAMESTRONG Ugh. This is such a struggle for me, but I'm working on being more present by listening in conversations, especially when there's conflict, instead of mentally preparing my clapback. Stopping myself from preparing a response helps me better understand the other person's perspective, what might be their intent, and whether or not me being offended by them is real or imaginary. Sometimes, we're offended by our assumptions of what the person is saying, more so than what they actually meant. That's internal conflict that we deflect by projecting it onto another. I've had some instances this year where I've had to say, "No, Jameka. THEY aren't wrong. You're still healing in that area, and they triggered something in you that you chose to respond to to ignore your healing that hasn't happened yet."

Take the emotion out of the response by role-playing the conversation before confronting a conflict.
I'm learning to approach conflict with an intent to resolve it, instead of avoiding it until I boil over and go off. Let's face it- adulthood looks a lot like having tough but necessary conversations. Sometimes, I have good intentions for arranging a sit down conversation with someone, but maybe they respond differently than I expected, and I'm right back to going off. Now, I try to quickly journal what I'll say when I see the person again. I'll write down what I think they'll say, based on my interactions with them, and then journal how I should respond to that. Lastly, I'll write down what I should say if the conversation begins to go left, so that I'm anticipating an emotionally-triggering response and have a plan for it. Having a script makes me less likely to be unexpectedly triggered by what they say or their body language. I say how I feel, what I realized from the conflict, and where I'd like to see it go from that point.

Know that it's really hard to educate someone on your perspective if you're coming off abrasive, forceful, close-minded and/or argumentative.
Because I'm becoming more aware of my patterns and triggers, I know that I'm more likely to pop off when I think someone doesn't understand my perspective or if they have an opinion I think is crazy. You know what I realize? Even the most clearly articulated thought falls on deaf ears if stated in a forceful, devaluing, abrasive way. When I'm angry (which comes with being annoyed), I start to talk fast, hurl insults, have forceful or aggressive body language, etc. Depending on my audience, it can be intimidating LOL. If a desired outcome is to genuinely engage in conversations to offer different perspectives to others, I have to be able to stay emotionally-detached in order to limit any emotional escalation.

Learn to be okay with no resolution. Agreeing to disagree isn't a cop out. Sometimes, the best thing is to politely disengage from certain people or topics after recurring conflict or anticipated conflict.
Here's the thing. We're all different people, AND THAT'S OKAY. I can offer someone a different perspective, but ultimately, it's not my role to CHANGE everyone's thinking to match mine. Also, some people won't be ready for resolving conflict. Some people aren't at the point where they understand what healthy communication looks like, so even your well-planned polite confrontation won't help. I'm learning that it's okay to not have a happy ending FROM THEM, and that if I did what was right by remaining calm and staying kind in how I communicated with them, that's a WIN. Seeking conflict resolution isn't for THEM, but for you. If you genuinely mean it, saying, "Let's agree to disagree" IS an answer.
Embrace that the conflict may be within you, not someone else.
Sometimes, until you do your own internal work to be less triggered by a certain person or when certain topics are discussed, it has to be okay to disengage. For me, it looks like keeping conversations short and shallow with certain people so that certain topics don't get brought up. It also looks like being selective with certain social settings where people I have a pattern of struggling with may attend. Is it rude? I don't think so. Do I plan to always stay away from certain people? No. At some point, I'd like to think I can do better, but for now, on this journey, it may mean intentional separation to protect my own energy. It's unhealthy to be in a perpetual state of conflict and tension.

What are you learning on your journey to manage your temper or be less reactive?

Dear God, Thank you for each and every reader of this post. I pray that You'll work in them as they read and that something here will resonate with them. God, You don't desire that we be in constant conflict with others. What a distraction! How can we focus on purpose when unable to get along with others because our flesh, uncontrollably, causes us to go off on others. Being unable to manager our tempers and our mouths ruins our character, limiting what we can do for You. Help us. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

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