Default responses to conflict and how to overcome them

Do you shout when faced with a conflict? Or go numb and can’t say a word? If you answered yes to any of these questions, chances are, you’ve been outside of your window of tolerance. Here are some tips on how to regain control over your emotions when you are faced with a disagreement.


The term “window of tolerance” describes the brain’s optimal zone of functioning, where you can handle stressors without losing control. A conflict situation with another person can push you out of this optimal zone into stress mode, causing you to become aggressive towards the other person (‘Fight’ response), want to leave the situation (‘Flight’ response), or not be able to think clearly and take any action at all (‘Freeze’ response). When you're in ‘fight’, ‘flight’, or ‘freeze’ mode, you're unable to have the conversation you may want or need to have. Sometimes you can end up outside your window of tolerance without noticing how you got there.⠀

So, how can you get back into the window of tolerance? Here are some mindfulness techniques that can help: ⠀
1️. Stop and pay attention to your breathing.⠀
2️. Notice your feet on the floor. Bring attention to the feeling of where the weight is placed on each foot. ⠀
3️. Use your five senses to notice what is happening in your immediate environment. Take a few slow breaths and ask yourself:⠀
- What can I hear?⠀
- What can I see?⠀
- What can I smell? ⠀
- What can I taste? ⠀
- What can I feel?⠀

Self-awareness can be a starting point in navigating through conflict towards a resolution. By focusing on your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, you'll regain control over your subsequent actions, and will be able to deal with a dispute in a more skilful way.⠀


This #ASBAwarenessWeek, WMS has partnered with Wandsworth Council to help tackle anti-social behaviour in the community. Each day we've been posting conflict resolution techniques to help nip ASB-related conflicts in the bud:
Monday, July 19 – Navigating tough conversations
Tuesday, July 20 – Top 5 conflict styles and resolution strategies
Wednesday, July 21 – Using I-statements to transform conflict situations
Thursday, July 21 – How to become an Active Listener
Friday, July 22 – Default responses to conflict and how to overcome them

If you are entrenched in a conflict with your neighbour, you can get free help. At Wandsworth Mediation Service (WMS), we offer free community mediation to all Wandsworth residents. Two trained mediators will facilitate the conversation, help you listen to each other’s point of view and assist you in developing mutually agreeable solutions. Mediation is free, completely confidential and highly effective - most cases settle after the first meeting. Contact us for more information.

Grateful thanks to Sharon Crooks, Nick Adlington and Lizzie Haynes.