Inner Conflict Management 101



“I am not a victim of emotional conflicts.  I am human”

Marilyn Monroe


I have spent my professional life immersed in conflict management.  As a lawyer, I’ve been trained to spot risk and foresee conflict, and then when it arises, to advise clients on the best way to deal with it, minimizing losses, time and money spent on its resolution.

Yet, this does not make me better at dealing with my own conflicts.  Being personally involved in a conflict is uncomfortable, to say the least.  When looking at a client’s issue, I was able to apply distance and perform a professional analysis – even when departing from an empathetic feeling.  It all vanishes entirely when the conflict touches my own interests and feelings.

Depending on our personality, we may prefer to avoid conflict altogether, or (over)react emotionally and then regret it.  Most of us tend to ignore the conflict or find all sorts of justifications to look elsewhere and wait for it to resolve by itself.

But it rarely does…

I think conflict management starts by acknowledging that conflict is inherent to human nature –or better said, it is part of nature, it inbuilt in the survival mechanism of all plants and animals ‘existence.

Once we acknowledge that it is part of life, it makes sense to find a way to deal with it effectively.  We can learn a lot from listening to others and cultivating a mature and productive exchange.  It doesn’t always result in collaboration, but there is certainly always something to learn from each conflict situation.  In other posts I’ll talk about interpersonal relationships and share some tips to deal with others.

Now, what if the conflict is with yourself?  Inner conflict or contradictions can be self-consuming.  I have noticed that when I’m doing something against my true wishes or values my body starts to send warning signals that translate into stress symptoms:  stomach ache, back pain, depressed immune system…

How often do we find ourselves doing things “because we should”, or because it is someone else’s plan which doesn’t feel like your own?  And worse, how often do you ignore these signals, and go on living with an awkward feeling that something is not right?

Let me share a personal example:  yesterday I needed to contact a woman I have not seen for some time to request a favour.  I first wrote an email “to invite her for coffee to catch up”.  But I didn’t send it, something was not right.  I felt nervous about it and it took me a while to recognize the conflict within me:  I didn’t want to appear pushy and I don’t like asking for favours.  But my other side was saying it wasn’t straightforward and honest to ask for coffee if I had a clear intention to ask for a concrete service.  It took me a while to recognize the conflict.  Then I redrafted the email and asked directly the information I needed.  She replied back, gave me the details I asked for, and proposed herself to go for coffee and catch up!

How can you resolve inner conflicts? 

First, listen to the signs of discomfort.  Is there something you’ve been hiding from?  Decisions you are postponing?  Fear to admit that you are not living the way you want?  Is there any kind of clash with your values?  There can be “small conflicts” that are easy to address (for example, I am a dance teacher, I believe in the immense power of physical exercise to heal the body and mind, and I feel horrible when I’m finding silly excuses to stop exercising – the solution is very simple:  just do it!).  Or there can be more serious issues that require big decisions (like quitting your job or ending a relationship).  Or postponed dreams that can be translated into doable steps.

Whatever it is, I can assure you that having the courage and determination to look into it and find out what is missing from your life or what is no longer acceptable is the biggest step.  From there to taking a decision to do something about it and coming up with a concrete plan to make change happen the way is not so long.

The sense of relief you’ll get from taking a renewed path coherent with yourself is immense.

As my teenage son says:  YOLO!  If you only live once, why be roomies with distress and anxiety caused by conflict within yourself?  Sparing yourself from fighting your own values and wishes is more sensible.  You’ll spend enough energy dealing with conflicts with others, so make peace with the person who is closest to you first.

I’m running a personal development course for women in Brussels called RenewYou on May 24th.  It could take just one day to change your life and come out energized to do what you want. 

Stagnation hurts more than change

deep water


 “The snake that cannot shed its skin perishes. So do the spirits, who are prevented from changing their opinions, they cease to be spirits.”

Nietzsche’s The Dawn


Any kind of transformation requires energy, so in that sense change may be perceived as painful.  On the other hand staying stagnated, stuck in a situation that is not optimal, tied to an inflexible routine can hurt more deeply.  Inaction and procrastination lead to a sense of dissatisfaction that can erode your identity because you are living against your values or wishes.

Sometimes we feel trapped in our lives, and we don’t even realise we are making ourselves miserable.  Difficulties start to make us develop a tunnel vision and suddenly there are no options available.  We fall into fatalism, we are condemned to an existence with a determinism that we accept without questioning.  “I have no time to exercise”, “I need to lose weight but I need my wine and chocolate”, “I don’t like this job but the market is so difficult”, “I’m unhappy in my relationship but it is too late to change”, “I would like to meet someone but I hate networking”…..

What if what we believe derives from rational thinking is not actually reality?  What if we have contributed ourselves to the perception of a reality that is not the life we intend to live and that can be transformed once we take the decisions, change our attitudes and apply ourselves to it?

Confrontation with the idea of our finite existence and the elusiveness of happiness in life is not bad.  But a less dramatic thought can help:  we have all experienced some life changing moments before.  Think about how that happened:  a flash, a realization, new information, meeting someone.

It is impressive to see how some people spend fortunes renewing their houses, changing cars frequently, refurbishing their living-rooms, buying new clothes, having their gardens redone and their hands manicured.  And it is also sad to see how other people retreat from their socials lives and live for the single purpose of working and producing, abandoning their appearance, health, emotional and spiritual needs.

Whatever needs renewal in your life, the first step is the determination to do something about it.  Becoming rebellious against stagnation is taking charge and responsibility for forging our own reality.  Nobody else will do this for us, and if they do, it might not be for the sake of your life and your own desires.

Start today and decide to take control of your life.  That’s the first step.  Once you do this, opportunities pop up, help appears more accessible, there are books, people, courses, friends, coaches, family, places out there waiting for you to discover them and get you inspired.

I have discovered this is true and have met transformational people:  those that helped me see other ways of thinking and perceiving my own life.

What is bothering you?  Is it difficult to take the first step, what if you simply took the time to revise your life from within and assess what you would like to renew? 

Your call and deeper needs deserve attention.  Ignoring the questions will not make them go away.  Stagnation hurts more than change. Just take little steps:  how would you like to feel? what is missing? what do you want more of? what new things do you want to try? what can you give to others? how do you want others to feel around you? what kind of people do you want to spend more time with? what first steps can you take to change in the direction you want?