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.

Share your thoughts.

Let’s keep our discussions reflective, productive, and welcoming. Please follow our Community Guidelines and understand that we moderate comments and reserve the right to delete comments that don’t adhere to our guidelines. You must sign in or sign up to comment.

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    I love the doodles! It made more sense because I’m a visual person. Great insight, thanks a bunch! 😀

  214. Carol R says:

    “We might read too deeply into an offhand remark.” That has been a problem for my daughters and me, my younger daughter especially. She’d read between the lines and then feel hurt or offended. When we finally talked it out, I used this joke to illustrate the problem: A husband and wife are having lunch. The husband asks, “Is this corned beef?” The wife says, “Why? What’s wrong with it.” Now whenever one of us thinks the other is reading too much between the lines, all we have to say is “corned beef.”

    • CuriousMind says:

      I think we read too much into someone’s remark because we want to know what they feel about us. Sometimes , we introverts can be quite self conscious (and I’m not complaining about it) . We could have just ask what others feel about us, but we prefer to observe.

      • Lori says:

        This is so true. I struggle with this daily, especially with people who use sarcasm. I hate sarcasm and have a hard time getting past it. I try to look at the “BIGGER” picture and look at the person as a whole, give them the benefit of my doubt, and open my heart with love and understanding. But that being said, words are mighty powerful. Anyway, I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks!

  215. Weston says:

    I have found that not being reactionary is one of the best moves to make when tension is high or conflict is approaching. I tend to step back and or away and return later. The time away allows me to settle my thoughts, remove my emotions and think clearly about the incident or set of circumstances. I have found that stepping away and taking time annoys some people because they want to release their thoughts and emotions in the moment ( scream, blame, combust, etc.). For me, I would rather not take the risk. I like being cool headed in general and certainly under tense circumstances. If I respond in the moment I am likely to respond in a way that does not represent my usual self and that I will likely say something I regret later. Then, I would have to spend unnecessary time trying to repair damage caused by my actions. This approach fits me best.

    • Carol R says:

      I agree completely. My best friend and I hardly ever fight, but we once had a big blowup. He even came to my house and rang the bell over and over, but I wouldn’t come to the door. Instead, I texted him that I didn’t come to the door, because I didn’t want to get yelled at. I said I did want to talk to him, but we both needed time to cool off. After a few days, we did talk it out, and everything was fine.

  216. Julio César Cuello Ureña says:

    It is so nice to read and learn about yourself to deal with things i’ve encountered

  217. Quiet Revolution says:

    What helps you resolve disagreements?

    • Carol R says:

      Timeouts are a huge help for me. Also compassion—remembering that the other person likely has the same fears and other feelings as me. But sometimes the only “resolution” I can achieve is to agree to disagree. Which isn’t so much a resolution as a signal that I’m done arguing.

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