Conflict is the Arrow Pointing to What We Need to Learn Most

12/07/2023 2:39 PM | Ayce Bukulmeyen Ozerdem

Unhealthy work conditions can create enormous human and financial costs. So much research shows that unresolved conflict often impairs well-being. American businesses lose $359 billion dollars yearly due to unresolved conflict and low productivity (Kauth, 2020). The physical, emotional, psychological, and interpersonal tolls are incalculable.

In this statement, it is crucial to focus on the term "unresolved" rather than "conflict.” The conflict may be justified, but the challenge lies in finding a fair resolution, whether positively or negatively. The way in which conflict is experienced or resolved can affect the well-being of those involved.

Many workplaces focus on maintaining a professional demeanor, avoiding conflicts, being hesitant to admit errors, and refraining from taking risks. Conversations are stilted and limited. There is a lack of openness and trust, which leads to confusion, grievances, and a lack of sense of control. This is unhealthy for everyone. Employers should establish trust and openness for better culture, cost savings, engagement, and productivity. To create a courageous environment where people can speak out about what's right, dignities must be fed with honorable debate skills.

Clear communication is crucial for mental and physical well-being, navigating organizational stress, and maintaining good mental health.

It is evident that employee health affects productivity.

Constant worry and stress in the workplace can lead to unproductive workdays. In a study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 56% of employees reported that their anxiety and stress affected their work performance. They can impair the ability to communicate effectively, empathize with others, and resolve conflicts.


Our biology is the reason behind this fact. When a person is stuck in a dispute for weeks, months, or even years, the constant fight-flight-freeze response can lead to exhaustion. Two stress hormones triggered by conflict are adrenaline and cortisol. The production of adrenaline and cortisol during this enduring situation might put the person's mental health at risk. Adrenaline ramps up and diminishes quickly, but cortisol uses a different, slower pathway in the body — through the bloodstream rather than the nervous system. Cortisol is a hormone that affects our judgment subtly, often without us even realizing it. People experiencing high cortisol levels perceive their opponents as angrier and more threatening than they appear to those with lower stress levels. A person with high cortisol levels often struggles to see others' perspectives. These changes usually happen without us being aware of them.

To achieve constructive resolution, emotions are critical players in any conflict. Maintaining composure, despite heightened emotions, is crucial to a successful resolution. To remain calm during conflicts and prevent escalation, we must master our minds and emotions. International mediator and negotiator William Ury says during times of conflict, the person we need to deal with is not the person on the other side of the table. It is the person on this side of the table. It is the person we look at in the mirror every morning, ourselves.

He believes the power not to react but rather to go to the balcony. He says when things escalate, go to the balcony, a mental and emotional balcony, which means a place of calm, perspective, and self-control where you can stay focused on your interests and remind yourself of your guiding questions and why you are there. Working on being the master of our minds and learning special techniques for releasing anxiety, overcoming negative talk, and being able to go to the balcony when needed should be a priority for us.


To improve social skills when dealing with stress and anxiety, it is vital to have a program of activities that prioritizes the health and well-being of staff.

When businesses prioritize empowering employees, they foster cohesive teams that are more invested in their work and the company's values, leading to excellent retention rates. So, how do we do that?

Again, our biology is the key.

We have two different nervous systems in our bodies.

One is for stress, and one is for the calming response.

The sympathetic Nervous System is our survival mode, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System is for relaxation, restoration, rest, and good digestion. we need to learn how to activate and strengthen it.

So, we need to activate the calming response system consciously.

For that, we need to engage with our bodies more and more.

How do we do that?


Sophrology is a straightforward, practical, and powerful approach with many benefits. The main goal in Sophrology is to engage more with our bodies rather than our minds.

It is a well-being method based on dynamic relaxation, deliberate breathing techniques, gentle movements, meditation, and visualization to balance mind and body and feel empowered in the Modern World. Widely used throughout Europe since it commenced 60 years ago, Sophrology is now becoming increasingly popular in the US. It has earned its reputation as ‘the’ method for reducing stress and anxiety, which we need to maintain our challenges and conflicts in life, amongst other issues such as sleep problems, self-esteem issues, and pain management.

This complementary therapy, which combines the best of Eastern mindfulness techniques and Western relaxation exercises, has been widely researched with a proven impact on reducing the effects of these issues and conditions.


To put it briefly, we have many built-in and fast-reacting mechanisms within the brain. They have kept us safe for thousands of generations. While they still have great value sometimes, they can also cause us considerable mental and physical harm when operating inappropriately. Learning conflict resolution or dispute prevention techniques solely will not be helpful if we can’t be masters of our biological impulses.

In other words, effective conflict-dispute resolution techniques must involve robust biological-mental management techniques.

A conflict is the arrow pointing to what we need to learn the most, as Kenneth Cloke (2011) made a profound statement. We need to be familiar with our stressors and triggers and work to manage them for our own good.

Techniques such as Sophrology teach resilience and adaptability skills, which promote thriving, not just survival and coping mechanisms.

Research from Kent University indicates the benefits to be gained from offering sophrology sessions to employees - even during the most difficult of circumstances- as such intervention can still have a positive impact on employees’ physical and mental health.



  • 12/09/2023 11:47 AM | Joseph Elias
    Thank you for this arrow. It helped solidify what I do i moments on conflict - which is to "insert the pause". Its my way of practicing the Sophrojogy. It was hard at first because I confused it with not "maintaining my position" with the pause, then raising of my words rather than my voice and using more logic with empathy to relay my points more collaboratively. I am still learning ...
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  • 02/15/2024 8:26 AM | David J. Smith
    Really practical advice. And important insight into how we respond to conflict and stress. Something mediators should share with their clients.
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