Some conflicts are beyond your control. But you can always decide how to respond.
In the hours and days after a bruising or hurtful dispute erupts, how do you feel? If you’re still steaming a week later, the lasting repercussions can prove more costly than the initial spark.
Choosing to replay the conflict in your mind in an endless loop will only exacerbate your anger. The tendency to think through what caused the incident—who said what and why—can eat away at your ability to recover.
Here are some tips to rebound from an exhausting skirmish:
Shift gears—completely. Your first priority in the hours after a conflict ends is to move on. Don’t dwell on your sense of grievance. Plunge into a demanding task that diverts your attention.
Experiment with assignments that require physical exertion (such as clearing away old manuals from your bookcase) along with cerebral jobs that require deep focus (such as writing a technical report). Mentally hypnotic tasks may also prove relaxing; try filing, sorting or organizing your workspace.
Minimize the venting. If you’re the type of person who needs to tell five friends about a just-concluded conflict, resist the urge to gab. Taking a few minutes to confide in someone is fine. But after a certain point, retelling the story of what happened and how you were mistreated (by a customer, co-worker, etc.) serves little productive purpose.
Keep a “lesson log.” As you reflect on the conflict, ask yourself, “What did I learn?” Write whatever comes to mind. Even if you’re blameless, examine cause-effect relationships to extract lessons for the future. For example, jot comments you made that unleashed the other person’s fury.