Do You Run When There is a Fire in the Kitchen?

Every day we are faced with situations that can trigger our emotions and how you respond can make all the difference. You may be dealing with a difficult colleague or a sabotaging boss, or entitled teenager. You may see these conflicts as manipulative, undermining, or even as a personal attack. Your first instinct may be to express your anger and frustration; however, often the first thing said can be your greatest regret. For some people, when there is a “fire” or conflict, it is easier to just run out of the kitchen and not deal with the issue or concern at hand.26869864_l

What happens when you run out?

The fire can get out of control. When I am talking about fire, I am not talking about a physical building where your life is in danger. If your life is in danger – RUN and get help! In conflict, your mind perceives conflict as stress and so your body may move into the “fight or flight” response depending on how you react to the situation versus respond. I am not asking you to suppress your emotions but I do want you to stop and take a deep breath. When you are emotional, you do not think rationally. Your imagination can run wild making assumptions about what the intended tone in an email was, comments or questions during a meeting, or why your colleague failed to make a deadline. Psychologist, John Gottman says, “When you’re furious, you can’t be curious.” This is so true. How well you cope or do not cope depends on the perceived threat of the situation.

Conflict is fused with emotions. Moving through conflict is not easy and can be uncomfortable. There are ways to manage it more effectively. We know that if you fail to control your emotions, they will control you because your thoughts and feelings impact your behaviours and the actions you will take.

Start by simply stopping and taking a deep breath, this pause can help you reconnect with yourself and think about what is happening more clearly. It may take several minutes or even hours. You do not always need to respond right away – especially to emails. If emotions are charged, it is best to speak face to face or at least by phone.

Acknowledge and accept your emotions. Reflect on why you are triggered emotionally. Separate the facts from the emotions that you are feeling, you will discover a wealth of information. Pay attention to what those emotions are telling you. What expectation or values were violated? Why are you experiencing the conflict? What was the impact? What would you like to experience? Listen to what these emotions are telling you, this will help you identify the underlying cause of the conflict.

Remove the focus from yourself and try to gain an understanding where the other person is coming from. Clarify their needs and share your needs. People often fail to meet expectations or meet your needs because they do not know what they are. Most people have good intentions but fail to communicate their needs or decisions. Your colleague may have missed the deadline because he was waiting for information from someone else or he did not have the skillset. Your boss may have some inside information she has not shared with you yet and brought it up in a meeting and you felt blind-sided. Your teenager assumes you will drive them to the mall but does not understand you have an important meeting because no one communicated with each other. When you express how you are feeling, what you want, and do not want, you will be able to work more collaboratively in coming up with a win-win situation or solution to the problem.

You can deal with conflict more effectively and discover your voice when you stay in the kitchen and do not fan the flames. Own your emotions and uncover the facts. Stop, Breathe, and Be Curious!!!

DEBRA KASOWSKI, BScN CEC is an award-winning best-selling author, transformational speaker, blogger, and Certified Executive Coach. She has a heart of a teacher and is certified in Appreciative Inquiry and Emotional Intelligence. Debra Kasowski International helps executives, entrepreneurs, and organizations boost their productivity, performance, and profits. It all starts with people and passion.


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