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Brilliant Stress Management by Dr. Mike Clayton

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C
onflict and stress feed one another. When you are more
stressed, you are more likely to find yourself in conflict
with the people around you, because your perspective on
issues is not as clear as it could be. When you fall into conflict
with others, it increases your stress levels. How to resolve con-
flict is an essential part of stress control.
Notice the phrase: when you fall into conict’. This is what it is
often like: it seems as if you have reached the edge of the cliff
and then . . . you fall. Sometimes we know it is happening and
feel unable to stop ourselves leaning over. This is often a sign of
stress, so this chapter begins with how to recognise escalating
conict.
At the core of the chapter are two sections: ve approaches to
dealing with conict, and a seven-step process for resolving
conict. The last section introduces two ‘industrial-strength’
solutions: mediation and arbitration.
How to recognise escalating conflict
Conict has a way of escalating out of control. It all starts when
harmony is disturbed by a simple irritant – usually something
that is objectively very minor. Yet, to one party, it is signicant
and a failure to accommodate it leads to escalation.
As we meet resistance, we become annoyed then exasperated,
moving to anger and maybe even rage. Conict reaches its peak
170 brilliant stress management
at various forms of abuse from verbal to physical violence, and it
can all happen astonishingly quickly. Like stress, the later stages
of this escalation are marked by a loss of control.
The warning signs
Therefore, if you can spot the signs early, it will help you to
defuse the conict while it is still relatively easy to do so. The
essential skills are to observe behaviours and to listen carefully,
particularly to the unspoken messages. Here are some of the
warning signs that you can pick up from body language:
Discomfort
The rst thing you might notice if you are observing two people
is one or both of them shifting their posture from leaning in
towards the other (accord) or a neutral posture, to leaning
away from one another. This is an attempt to increase the space
between them, signalling that they feel uncomfortable with that
person.
As they start feeling insecure about their position, a telltale
sign is neck touching. We do this to relieve insecurity, doubt or
uncomfortable emotions, so you may see a man adjust his collar
or tie, or a woman play with a necklace.
Disagreement
Annoyance is often signalled by short repetitive movements,
such as tapping ngers or shifting weight from one foot to
another. Both of these, however, could also indicate impatience,
which may be positive: a keenness to proceed. So, also look
out for distinct signs of disagreement. Frowning is often rst,
showing a struggle to understand either what is being said or
why it is being said. This latter reason suggests disagreement and
a stronger indicator will be when they raise their hand towards
the eye. If the brow cannot cover enough of the eye, this gesture
now truly strengthens the signal to disbelief or disagreement. We
literally don’t want to see what we are hearing.

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