An Introvert’s Guide to Managing Conflict

Q: Do you have any advice on how introverts can handle family drama? I’m so uncomfortable when there’s tension between us!

A: Interpersonal conflict can become a source of emotional stress and physical fatigue, especially for sensitive introverts.

Here are some ideas for managing family disagreements in a healthy manner.

1) Take a break, but come back

As introverts, we like to take breaks when we feel overstimulated. That isn’t a bad idea. A break gives us the opportunity to reflect on the discussion and organize our thoughts. Brief timeouts can act as “reset buttons” in escalating arguments. However, if we simply walk away when things get uncomfortable, we’ll never resolve the issue. Show consideration for the other person by saying, “Can we take a five-minute timeout? I just need a short break and then we can continue talking.” Hopefully, both parties will return to the conversation with a clearer perspective and a calmer attitude.Take a break but come back - comic

2) Listen with empathy

Most introverts have a hidden strength: we’re great listeners. This skill can be an immense asset when it comes to resolving conflict. Allow the other person to talk with minimal interruption, and rephrase what they’ve said to demonstrate understanding while expressing empathy for their feelings. Remember, you can validate someone’s feelings even if you don’t agree with their point of view. Take a break, but come back comic

3) Talk it out

Some introverts like talking about their feelings, while others decidedly do not! In any case, introverts tend to think deeply about these situations, considering the problem from several different angles. We may even play out entire discussions in our heads. Whether or not you feel like talking, chances are, you have something to say. Communication is essential to working out disagreements, so it’s best to speak up. Talk it out - comic

4) Let it go

Introverts are thinkers. But thinking can easily turn into brooding if we aren’t careful. We might read too deeply into an offhand remark. Or we’ll think of another comment we wish we’d said. Discussion is a healthy way to deal with problems; harping on an issue that’s already been addressed is not. If the problem has been adequately resolved, let it go.

Let it go - comic

Family relationships can be complex. I once had an exasperated conversation with my sister regarding one of my children. I was frustrated and didn’t know what I should do. The response stuck with me: “Shrug and hug ‘em.”  

Working through disagreements can be uncomfortable, and forgiving may be difficult, but it’s worthwhile. As different as we may be, love binds families together.