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Maintain Your Self-Control

Learn how to respond instead of react to a situation by maintaining your self-control.

This is the fourth article in a series on collaboration and conflict resolution. Read the introduction to the entire series.

The ability to listen, speak, and act without provoking others or escalating the conflict depends upon thinking BEFORE speaking. Conflict can be stressful.  Here are four specific things you can do before, during, or after a conflict encounter to re-center and maintain your ability to respond.These four tools are practical techniques that Navy SEALs are taught to cope with extreme stress and remain emotionally balanced and clear-headed when they take action. For most of us, the ‘battles’ of our lives are interpersonal, family, or group conflicts, but the biology of stress is the same.

  1. Focus on Short Term Goals:
    “How am I going to get through the next five minutes/hour/day with this situation/person?”

Narrow your focus down to what is in front of you RIGHT NOW that you might be able to do something about. Clarify what you want to happen next. This avoids the overwhelming scope of the long-term problem and increases your ability to ‘perform’ at a higher level on a specific task. This dynamic works in all pressure situations: athletic performance, public speaking, or a messy interpersonal conflict. An immediate goal might be to control your temper, find the firmness to speak an uncomfortable truth in a calm voice, or listen to a difficult person without interrupting.

  1. Use Mental Rehearsal
    What does a successful outcome LOOK LIKE?”

Most of us don’t take the time to clearly and vividly imagine a good resolution to a situation that is causing anxiety. SEE what it will look like when you do this difficult thing well. Notice how you FEEL in your body, what you HEAR, and what you SMELL. When you do this and repeat it, you are giving your brain the experience of success and strengthening your will to act and persevere.

  1. Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Self Talk
    “What is my inner dialogue that is influencing me?”

Most of us are susceptible to an inner ‘chatter’ that can have a profound influence on our feelings and behavior. Pay attention to this negative self-talk and promptly intervene to stop negative, unhelpful messages that ‘program’ you away from a good result. Say to yourself “NO”, “STOP” or “REWIND.” Replace with a short, clear directive to prompt you to move forward positively. For example: “I can do this”, “Keep my eyes on the prize” or “Just take the next step.”

  1. Control Your Physical/Emotional Level
    “How can I stay calm and centered in my body?”

A sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach, a shaking/angry voice, or mounting panic must be controlled. Calm dynamic response is better than hasty or panicked reaction. Inhale deeply for a count of six, hold for a count of two, exhale for a count of six. Repeat 3X. In less than one minute, this simple technique lowers your blood pressure, calms the nervous system, fills the brain with oxygen and immediately increases your capacity to think and respond consciously.

A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe. ~ Wayne Dyer, Psychologist