3 ways to regulate your emotions during conflict

Learn valuable techniques for maintaining calm, improving communication, and resolving issues effectively.


Andra Enache

8/12/20233 min read

silhouette of man and woman sitting on ottoman
silhouette of man and woman sitting on ottoman

When facing conflicts with your partner, how do you instinctively react? Do you tend to engage in discussions or walk away from the situation? Conflict management styles are shaped by many factors, including personality, past experiences, and values. While each person's approach to conflict is unique, it's important to recognize that these responses can significantly impact conflict resolution. Although you can't control your partner's reactions, you can work on regulating your own emotions – a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy relationship.

Many resources on conflict resolution emphasize effective communication and interpersonal skills. However, when emotions are running high, it can be challenging to express yourself calmly and rationally. This is where emotional regulation comes into play. By understanding and managing your emotions, you can express your needs and desires more effectively, contributing to more productive conflict resolution. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, the following guidelines can serve as a starting point.

black flat screen tv turned on at the living room
black flat screen tv turned on at the living room
  1. Understand your triggers and responses

Initiating change begins with self-awareness. Without an understanding of your current behaviors and thought patterns, it's difficult to identify what needs adjustment. During conflicts, certain triggers can provoke an emotional response. For example, a specific word might evoke memories of past experiences, influencing your emotional reaction. Consider your upbringing – if you grew up in an environment characterized by frequent arguments and shouting, you might be triggered by raised voices.

What can you do? Take time to reflect on your triggers during conflicts:

  • Identify what triggers you – Is it the choice of words, tone, or non-verbal cues?

  • Explore how you react to these triggers – What are your immediate, instinctual responses? How do they influence the conflict?

close photo of woman's back
close photo of woman's back
  1. Recognise the impact of emotions on your body

Emotions are a natural aspect of human experience, they are not "good" or "bad." Viewing emotions in such binary terms oversimplifies the complexity of human feelings. More than that, while emotions are processed mentally, they profoundly affect our physical state; anger and anxiety prompt physiological changes – increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These responses mirror the body's instinct to fight or flee, harking back to ancestral survival mechanisms.

What can you do?

When you sense conflict escalating, take a moment to pause and reconnect with your body. Let your partner know you need a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Close your eyes and tune into your physical sensations. Is your heart racing? How is your breathing? Where do you feel tension in your body?

and breathe neon sign on tre
and breathe neon sign on tre
  1. Practice Deep Breathing

In the heat of an argument, finding calm can be challenging. However, deliberately engaging in slow, controlled breathing can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, counteracting the stress response. This initiates a series of physiological changes, including a slower heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and reduced stress hormone production. When you breathe deeply, your body transitions from high arousal to a more composed and calm state. This is why practising controlled deep breathing not only activates physiological reactions but also offers a brief moment to collect your thoughts. This can help you in navigating conflicts with clarity and composure.

In conclusion, conflicts are an inherent part of any relationship. Instead of focusing solely on avoiding conflicts, consider using them as opportunities for self-discovery and relationship growth.

As therapist Esther Perel said: “It takes two to create a pattern, but only one to change it”.