Sometimes we might find ourselves in high-pressure situations with our spouse or co-workers, which can lead to heated arguments and conflict. When we feel under attack, it is easy to become defensive and want to counterattack. Here is a quick guide to managing conflict.

Don’t take the conflict personally

The person you are in conflict with might be stressed, tired or angry with someone or something else. Recognise and acknowledge their anger but see it as something separate from you. It is their anger, not yours.  Sometimes, people mistakenly believe that if someone is angry with them it is because the person doesn’t like them. This might not be the case.

Don’t raise your voice

If you are being shouted at, speak in a calm voice. If you shout the conflict will only elevate. If you are relaxed, it takes the threat away, and the other person feels less defensive.


Acknowledge what the other person is saying. Conflict triggers the fight, flight or freeze system. It is hard to listen when someone is angry because of this. Do your best to acknowledge what the other person is trying to say.  For example:

“I understand that you are angry.  It was not my intention to upset you.”

Underlying needs

Look for underlying needs. Sometimes people are upset because they feel like their needs are not being met. For example, if someone is angry because you forgot their birthday, the underlying need might be to know that you care, or that you value them.

Calming down

Don’t give your opinion until the other person has calmed down. As noted above, people cannot hear when they are in fight or flight mode. When both of you are calm, you can speak more rationally to each other.

Acknowledge your own feelings

Acknowledge how the conflict makes you feel and state it when the other person is in a place to hear it. For example:

“I felt scared when you raised your voice at me.”

“I felt sad when you thought that I didn’t care about you.”

“I felt rejected when you pushed me away when I tried to hug you.”


If the conflict seems to be ongoing, or you feel that you or the other person struggles to be calm, a professional can help.  To set up an appointment with me please contact +852 2521 4668 or email

Photo by Jonathan Sharp on Unsplash