• Se'Lena Wingfield, Ph.D.

How to Take Emotion Out of Conflict Resolution


All conflict involves emotion, especially the ones based on principle.


Most conflicts are due to perceived injustices. There are particular injustices that will impact your emotions more than others based on your principles. As individuals, we have different values, value systems, and self-concepts that guide our behavior and our responses to the conduct of others. For example, if you are an honest person, it may be especially infuriating for someone to rob, betray, or misuse you. If you are a private person, someone exposing you for personal gain may devastate you and end a relationship. For people who do not operate on the same value system, it is just not that big of a deal. And that’s how the conflict starts.


Therefore, depending on the individual, conflict resolution can be about much more than financial support, damages, compensation, repaying a debt, or HOA fees. It has the added force of emotions (e.g., feelings of disrespect, manipulation, hurt, shame, revenge, or anger). And it’s okay to have emotions; we all do. We’re all human. However, we also need to understand that it is not in our best interests to allow our emotions to prevent us from moving forward.


How to manage our emotions and create a resolution to the conflict?

  • Get to the root of your emotions. Identify them and ask yourself why you feel that way. Don’t judge yourself, just practice introspection. Consider if there is any way that your emotions (even if they are valid) are keeping you from closing this chapter or resolving this issue.

  • Learn conflict resolution skills and practice using those techniques to diffuse the impact of any emotional triggers.

  • Focus on the resolution. Focusing will require repeated effort because our emotions can often overpower logic. Logical thinking is further exacerbated when the opposing party is triggering our emotions. So don’t take the bait. Maintain your focus.

  • Determine whether it would be better to hire a mediator (impartial, neutral person) trained to absorb the emotional aspects of the conflict and help parties keep the focus on the resolution. You may get to a resolution a lot faster.

Why be concerned with resolving conflict?


Ongoing conflict can keep our bodies in a cycle of high alert or the fight or flight response. Our bodies respond to a stressful or frightening event by preparing to fight or flee in fight or flight. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing increase to a level that will help you carry out the fight or flight response you choose, but your body should not be in that state for extended periods of time. It is in your best interest to resolve any ongoing or high-stress conflict.


Until then, find ways to help you destress:

  • Get moving. When you stay stagnate, so does your mind. Exercise, walk, cycle, swim, practice yoga…move your body!

  • Direct your thoughts. Listen to motivational speakers, use a guided journal, watch your favorite comedy shows.

  • Unplug. Use meditation to disconnect from your feelings and give your mind and body a break. Turn off social media (no social comparisons). Turn off local and national news (no vicarious trauma). Just be.

Don’t let conflict get the best of you!