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The Algorithm of Behavioural Change for Non-Violent and Effective Conflict Resolution

In both personal and professional relationships, conflict is an inevitable part of human interaction.

It can be difficult to navigate these conflicts without feeling rejected, inadequate, or blocked. However, it is important to learn how to dissolve conflict and drive behavioural change in a way that is effective and respectful. This article takes inspiration from the books by Thomas Erickson and employs practical solution-focused techniques as well as the neuroscience of neuroplasticity.

Written by Suzanne Pilch, an ICF Certified coach and communication expert, this article aims to help individuals who struggle with trauma, low self-esteem, and CPTSD become more confident and effective in communicating about what they feel they need to change in their lives. By understanding and applying these techniques, readers will be able to approach conflict with a positive and productive mindset, ultimately leading to stronger, healthier relationships both at home and in the workplace.

The Physiological Consequences of Negative Communication for People with Low Self-Esteem and CPTSD

The behaviour and communication of others can be particularly damaging for individuals with low self-esteem and CPTSD survivors due to the physiological consequences of stress. When individuals with these conditions are exposed to negative behaviour or communication, it can trigger the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can have a significant impact on their physical and mental health.

Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to a range of physical and psychological symptoms, including fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. It can also lead to more serious health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Furthermore, stress can have a profound impact on the brain. It can impair cognitive function, including memory, attention, and decision-making, making it more difficult for individuals to process information and respond effectively to conflict

Stress can also cause changes in brain structure and function, leading to long-term consequences for emotional regulation and behaviour.

For people with low self-esteem and / or for CPTSD survivors, the effects of stress can be even more significant. The negative beliefs and emotions associated with these conditions can increase the likelihood of experiencing stress and exacerbate its physiological consequences.

Therefore, it is essential to handle conflict and communication with care and sensitivity, as negative behaviour and communication can have significant physiological consequences. By creating a safe and supportive environment, individuals can reduce the impact of stress on their physical and mental health, allowing them to communicate more effectively and resolve conflict in a constructive manner.

Here are the steps we should go through together to ensure you reach your goal of changing the way someone behaves, without exacerbating the conflict or putting yourself in danger.

Step 1: Building awareness

As long as your communication about the behaviour you are uncomfortable with remains unchange, that behaviour will also remain intact. You and I will learn how to break that ‘toxic communication contract’ in a way that feels safe for you and that will not be flashback-inducing. It’s all about making sure the brain knows the right communication algorithm in advance, so as to allow you to clearly say what you’re experiencing.

Step 2: The Words Are A Must, So Choose Them Wisely

It may be helpful to consider speaking directly with the other person about what is happening, rather than feeling down at work or at home. Remember, others may not be able to understand what you’re thinking or feeling without communication. It could be beneficial to approach the conversation calmly and in a private setting. You don’t have to go through great lengths to make it happen, but it’s important to ensure you have enough time to discuss things without interruptions. In order to avoid misunderstandings, it may be useful to plan out what you want to say. Here’s a framework that you can modify to fit your own situation:

Step 3: The Algorithm

This is the flow we need to follow to make our requests of behavioural change acceptable for others and safe for us to utter:

  1. When you … (describe what the person is doing that you want them
    to stop doing)
  2. I feel … (describe exactly what sort of negative feeling is created)
  3. If you stopped … (the objectionable behaviour) and instead … (describe
    what kind of behaviour you want to see in this given situation)
  4. Then I am going to feel … (describe exactly what feeling you want to have
    with your partner/boss/colleague/mother or whomever the person is)

It’s important to communicate clearly and effectively to ensure that your message is understood and to encourage the other party to listen. One approach that can be helpful is to use specific examples and express your feelings in a calm and respectful manner. For instance, you could say something like this:

“When you speak to me in a raised voice, it makes me feel afraid and worried. I would appreciate it if you could ask me in a calm tone instead, as that would make me feel more respected and valued.”

Another example might be:“When you talk about your loneliness all the time, I feel inadequate and unhappy. Could you tell me about what you did today instead? That would make me feel more calm and secure.”

If you’re feeling confident, you could also try:“When you blame me for your health problems, it makes me feel guilty and powerless. Instead of staying in bed, could you try getting up and doing something productive? That would help me see that we can work together to make this relationship stronger.”

By using this approach, you may be able to break the pattern of negative communication and create a more positive outcome.

Step 4: Remember, it’s a Choice.

One way to effectively end a conversation and ensure mutual understanding is to use a statement like this:

“I understand that it’s your decision to shout/cry/blame me, but it’s important for you to know that it makes me feel unhappy/afraid/worthless/insecure.” This approach is helpful because it can catch the other person off guard and demonstrate that you see their behavior as a conscious choice. Additionally, by taking responsibility for your own emotions, you avoid getting caught up in a potentially unproductive discussion.

Ultimately, it’s up to the other person to respond in a rational and reasonable way.

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