When we watch a movie or TV show, we want to see conflict. It’s what keeps us entertained and makes for an interesting storyline. But in real life, conflict can be draining and create unnecessary stress.

Here are five strategies to help you navigate conflict in a way that’s mindful and effective

Don’t try to prove yourself

Some people like to argue just for the sake of making a point. When dealing with such a person, you can go around in circles endlessly. But even if you feel that you’re right — let's say it’s a co-worker with whom you have a short-term relationship — you can simply opt out of the argument. It may be tempting to get involved, but keep a cool head and determine if it’s really worth your time. Then, if necessary, make a graceful exit.

Be mindful

When confronted with an interpersonal conflict that needs to be addressed, you may have no choice but to get involved. In the heat of the moment, your emotions may flare — as humans, that tends to be our default mode.
But rather than satisfying the primal need to defend yourself, it’s beneficial to take a step back and remain calm. As explained in the iNLP Center article “Conflict Resolution Strategies: Don’t Get Sucked into an Argument,” a helpful approach is to start with an intention to resolve conflicts peacefully. Mindfulness during a confrontation isn’t always easy, but it can be an effective way to handle conflict.

Lead the way

It may seem unfair, but opt for the high road, even when the person you’re dealing with insists on behaving badly throughout a confrontation. Understand that conflict is difficult for many people and can lead to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can take a toll on your health.

According to the Healthline article “11 Natural Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels,” a study showed that nonjudgmental mindfulness is helpful in restoring cortisol to normal levels after a confrontation. Even moderately high levels of cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, impaired memory and even osteoporosis. That’s why it’s important to maintain steadfast, mindful behavior whenever possible during an argument.

Ask questions

When you ask questions, you send the message that you care about the person you’re in conflict with and are willing to listen and consider their side of the argument. While this could be viewed as a manipulative tactic, if you approach an argument with heartfelt curiosity, you can see effective results. People want to feel understood — asking questions can get you on track to resolving even the most heated conflict.

Attempt to turn the situation around

In the midst of a conflict, the other person may decide to retreat. If that’s the case, you’ll want to avoid seeking information as that can be perceived as meddling and even threatening. If you sense that the other person has shut down, offer your side of the story, but in a straightforward way.

This can be challenging, especially if you’re feeling frustrated or angry, but if you extend a sense of genuine caring toward the person — and express yourself honestly yet in a calm manner — that’s an effective way to bring the conflict to a productive resolution.

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Author, Freelance writer