Masking the Issue: Displaced Conflict

displaced conflict; argument

Have you ever become very angry at someone who is helping you and then realized that the source of the conflict was something else entirely? This is an example of displaced conflict. The anger had nothing to do with the transaction or the customer service agent, and everything to do with another situation, perhaps one that is causing you stress or anxiety, which resulted in your lashing out at the wrong party.

Stress and Conflict

Hyperstress happens when too many tasks and responsibilities pile up and we are unable to adapt or cope with these changes. In hyperstress, the source is identifiable, such as too many competing deadlines at work and home. Hyperstress causes physical and chemical reactions in the body. If the stress is not alleviated, exhaustion sets in.

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How Stress Affects Conflict Resolution

Stress levels among adults in the United States have risen overall since 2015. According to TIME Magazine, 24 percent of adults reported feeling “extreme stress” in a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association. Money, work, family responsibilities, the economy, and health concerns are the top five most common stressors. With so many adults experiencing such high levels of stress, what does that mean for conflict and mediation? I’ve written previously about instigators of holiday stress as well as misplaced, displaced, and overblown conflicts resulting from stress. Let’s look further at how stress impacts conflict and its resolution.

The Different Types of Stress

There are actually multiple different types of stress, and each type has its unique challenges and impacts on our behavior. Hyperstress is too much stress, such as too many competing deadlines or tasks, while hypostress is too little, such as when you’re not being challenged or stimulated enough at work or school. Boredom and malaise are often the results of hypostress. What we might think of as “normal” stress, then, is our brain responding to demands, and only falls under the categories of hyperstress or hypostress when there are too many or too few demands placed on us. When a person is hyper- or hypostressed, they may become aggressive or angry, irritable, unable to focus, or depressed. None of these reactions or behaviors is conducive to resolving a conflict and is only likely to inflame it.

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Hyperstress and your Emotional Stopwatch: Are you really crunched for time?

By now we’re all used to living by the professional mantra of American careers: I’m so busy! Every new thing that presents itself to be done, every new item for the calendar, seems like one thing too many. If only there were one more hour in the day. How many of us heard our mothers and fathers recite this lament when we were children, only to hear ourselves repeating it now as our own hyperstress mounts?

However, three researchers from Duke, Erasmus, and Stanford are challenging this cliché, and telling us that one more hour isn’t likely to help at all. In fact, Jordan Etkin, Ioannis Evangelidis and Jennifer Aaker claimed recently in the Journal of Marketing Research that those overwhelmed and stressful feelings might not have much to do with time at all. [Read more…]

Holiday Post: The Hyperstress of Relaxation

Newsletter Edition: December 2014

The holidays are upon us, those blissful few weeks of tradition and cheer, vacation time, family gatherings – and, according to surveys by the American Psychological Association, boatloads of stress. I want to share how conflict resolution theory and practice can help us deal with the troublesome side of this season. If you’re trolling around the Internet looking for holiday gifts or recipes, you’re likely to bump into troves of gimmicks referring to “holiday stress” (“stress free” holiday recipes, gifts schemes that are sure to help you relax!) It’s become such a trope of American Christmas culture that the Huffington Post has an entire blog post category devoted to it. Insights from conflict resolution and mediation shed light on how it is we end up so stressed as the year draws to a close, and to find some richer, more thoughtful strategies for avoiding conflict and managing hyperstress during the holidays.

Insight on Stress: What’s at the root?

Insight mediation is a mediation strategy that emphasizes reflection and digging into the root source of a conflict or problem. Sometimes taking notice of where an issue originates can completely change our perspective. By putting some mental distance between the strong emotions we are experiencing and their underlying causes, we may avoid misplaced, displaced, and overblown conflicts (which I wrote about last year at this same time). Below are some possible places to look for the instigators of holiday hyperstress.  [Read more…]

Stress Causes Conflict that Masks the Core Issue

While the holiday season is generally thought of as a happy time of year it can be stressful for many people.  Just getting ready for the holidays and visitors is stressful.  I found myself getting very angry at someone who was helping me over the phone recently and I realized that the source of the conflict was stress and worry about a family member. It had nothing to do with the telephone transaction. It was an example of displaced conflict.

Stress and Conflict

Hyperstress  happens when too many tasks and responsibilities pile up and we are unable to adapt or cope with these changes.  In hyperstress the source is identifiable, such as too many competing deadlines at work and home.  Hyperstress causes physical and chemical reactions in the body.  If the stress is not alleviated exhaustion sets in.   So at this time of year many people experience hyperstress.

Someone who is in a state of hyperstress may cause a conflict to occur that is really not about the core issue.   For example they may be upset and worried about a sick friend or parent. When they’re in hyperstress they unknowingly take this anxiety out on the clerk in the convenience store who is slow at the cash register.

There are three types of such conflicts: [Read more…]