“Chaos to Calm” – Why Conflict and Unresolved Disputes are Bad for Your Health

Be honest now, how many of you experience conflict almost on the daily with a tenant or landlord? If there is one thing, every single property manager I have ever worked with has told me, is that they struggle with conflict and dispute resolution, not all despise it, but certainly, they tell me they struggle with it.

Conflict and disputes can be the most challenging aspects of our personal and professional lives. They are everywhere in our lives, at home with our kids, husbands, wives or partners, in the office with our colleagues, boss, or in property management with your landlords, tenants and tradespeople. They are unavoidable.

So, let’s start with the basics and define conflict and disputes because they are different.

Dispute

A dispute exists when one or more people disagree about something and the matter remains unresolved. It involves issues that are negotiable until a resolution is found. The longer disputes go on unresolved the more harm they cause, and interestingly, or importantly, your stress levels stay elevated until a dispute is resolved. I was so surprised to find this out.

Conflict

Now, let’s define conflict: a serious disagreement or argument. The definition of conflict is pretty simple right, a serious disagreement…and yet it evokes such negative reactions in us. Think about the last conflict you had, maybe it was getting your kids in the car for school on time or your husband leaving his washing on the floor, yet again, how did you feel after? Pretty terrible right! Conflict feels good in the heat of the moment to unleash that anger, but then you are left with remorse, like a bad hangover. Once things are said out loud you can’t take them back either.

Here’s why conflict evokes such negative emotions:

A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).

Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.

We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.

Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren’t comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won’t be able to resolve conflict or disputes successfully.

Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you’re able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.

There’s a lot of theories out there on conflict and dispute, you only have to watch TED talks and you’ll find plenty on the topic. To help you understand why conflict and disputes are bad for your health I want to share the personal work I have done. This has helped me not only be a better version of myself, but also a better mother, businesswoman, daughter, sister, and friend.

The ability to reduce conflict and resolve disputes actually starts within us all.

But I digress, I wanted to share with you why conflict and disputes are bad for your health.

Number One – It Causes Stress

Conflict and unresolved Disputes can either make or break our day … how many times have you walked into an office happy and ready to tackle all the tasks on your to-do list, when the phone rings and you pick it up and bang, someone is yelling at you on the other end. How do you react? Well let me tell you humans are actually very predictable, and generally speaking, we react in one of three ways:

You’ll want to fight – you will start screaming back at them with as much gusto, or you’ll be left fired up post conversation and thinking of all the things you should have said to them but didn’t because your brain was in a fog and wasn’t thinking logically.

Or you’ll choose flight – you’ll be overcome with emotion, how could they speak to you like that. I’m always working so hard and trying to help everyone, you’ll probably reach for the Kleenex box or run off to the toilet and cry.

Thirdly, you’ll shut down and simply hang up and avoid conflict at all costs. You’ll bury the dispute under your pile of other unresolved disputes and let it fester away there. This is an often overlooked response, called the Freeze also known as the deer in the headlights response.

You see our human bodies, and our nervous systems, millions of years ago were designed to do one of these three things when faced with fear, we either fight, flight or freeze.

Let’s get a little nerdy here. This reaction in your brain resides in the amygdala (AM-IG-DALA), located in the frontal temporal lobe in the brain. It is also one of the most primitive parts of our brain, also called the lizard brain. These quick primal responses were critical for survival way back in the day when we were still living in caves and death lurked around every corner. But society evolved faster than our brains and as a result, today we struggle in difficult conversations because we are fighting modern battles, with prehistoric tools.

Have you ever said something in the heat of the moment that you knew immediately was a mistake? This is called an Amigdala hijack, causing us to overreact in zero to sixty seconds. At the initial moment of conflict, our brain cortisol levels release instantaneously and anger builds up quickly because of the blood rushing to the brain.

When these responses are activated, conflict can quickly lead to crazy high levels of stress. How this onslaught of stress affects us in the physical sense: we’ll start lashing out, become irritable, and demonstrate dismissive behaviours. Not only does conflict and disputes elevate our stress levels, but stress interferes with our ability to resolve them by limiting our ability to problem-solve effectively.

If you are thinking but I can’t avoid conflict or disputes and ultimately stress… you are absolutely right. How many of you would say that you are feeling stressed daily and find it increasingly hard to do nothing and simply switch off? The reality is today in the world we live in and the jobs we do as property managers we can’t avoid stress. But stress can be managed, relieved and lessened, but never eliminated

Number Two – It Saps Your Energy

Bear with me I’m going to get super nerdy again, and a little spiritual as well, brace yourselves and keep an open mind. Did you know everything is made of energy including the human body? So, conflict in its simplest form involves an energy exchange between two people if you’re a little bit spiritual, you’ve heard of Reiki, chakras and auras, right? Well, basically they refer to the energy fields in the human body.

But if we get a little bit more scientific now … Have you heard of newtons laws? We are going back to school here for a minute, and in all likelihood, you haven’t spent too much time thinking about it. Newton’s laws of physics are three laws that describe the relationship between the motion of an object and the forces acting on it. They were compiled by Issac Newton in 1687.

What does this have to do with conflict you might be thinking?

His third law states: that for every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. So, when you apply this to energy exchanges the energy you put out in a conflict, will come back at you with the same force … does that make sense?

Let’s take a real-life example to explain this…if you have to call a tenant about their rent not being paid and you are aggressive, annoyed, frustrated and fed up chasing them and you say something like: ‘Hey, where is your rent, you said you would pay, and we haven’t got it, do you want me to breach you, and then kick you out of the property, I’m sick of chasing you’.

How will B likely respond? Any ideas?

They will probably respond with the same disdain, attitude and emotion you have dished out to him. Why? Because they are going to respond with the same force of energy that you gave them unless of course, they go into flight mode in which case they might just hang up on you. Either way, your dispute will remain unresolved and your stress levels will continue to escalate, not only that, now you’ve also just wasted a heap of energy as well.

You see your energy and emotions are contagious.

How many times have you left the office for the day and felt exhausted or drained, sapped of all your energy? Pretty regularly I’m going to guess and well that’s because every conflict or dispute has literally sapped your energy or every time you respond to a conflict or dispute in a negative way you give over your energy.

So, let’s change the script we discussed before … and say you get a call from a landlord, and he hasn’t been paid his monthly disbursement again and you’ve paid bills he wanted to pay direct, and he is yelling: ‘You are so incompetent, you are useless, can you do anything right, I’ve had this issue many times with you, I think it is time we found another property manager that can do their job properly.

But instead of responding to his energy like Newton’s third law and giving back that same amount of force … what if we put up an invisible barrier and halted the energy exchange and responded differently?

‘I do apologise, I can understand your frustration and we will resolve this immediately for you. What I will do is …. Etc’.

This is called putting up a boundary, metaphorically speaking, and not letting someone else’s energy drain yours. It is as simple as the next time you pick up a phone call you know is going to be difficult, try smiling before speaking, your energy is immediately friendly and they can sense it.

When your energy sources are depleted, you are tired, you make unhealthy lifestyle choices like reaching for a bottle of wine, instead of going to the gym, you are miserable to be around, you are negative and judgemental, your immune system is also compromised so you will be susceptible to colds and flus and illnesses.

Number Three – It Affects Your Self Esteem

That’s right, conflict mainly, makes us feel bad about ourselves. But, you see it’s often not what the other person says about us that makes us feel bad, it is what we BELIEVE about ourselves in the heat of the moment, what we tell ourselves that hurts or stings and makes us trigger or react emotionally.

Have you heard about LIMITING SELF BELIEFS?

Limiting beliefs are thoughts, opinions that one believes to be the absolute truth. They tend to have a negative impact on your life by stopping you from moving forward and growing on a personal and professional level.

If you think back to your earliest childhood memories, it’s likely you remember times when you were fearless when curiosity took you places you wouldn’t dare go now. However, as you began to age, you were introduced to an unending list of rules about what you should say, how you should be, and what you should do. These likely resulted in you creating beliefs about yourself and many of them are limiting.

Some of limiting self-beliefs go like this:

  • I’m not good at conflict

  • I’m a people pleaser

  • I’m not smart enough

  • I’m just a silly girl

  • I can’t hurt peoples feelings

  • I have to keep people happy at all costs

I want to make an important point here, the person you are engaged in conflict with is not making you feel these things, you are. These are NOT real beliefs either, simply stories you tell yourself to protect and keep yourself safe from fear, pain or rejection. And they particularly come into play when you are in situations that cause you immense discomforts like conflict or disputes. Other times they come into play when you have to do a video on social media or talk in front of a group of people, or apply for a promotion. Next time one of those things happens listen to that inner voice (inner critic some people call it), what is it telling you? They will likely be your limiting beliefs.

I’ve shared a worksheet on working out your Limiting Self Beliefs in our free resources section, so go ahead and download it, you’ll be surprised at what you find is holding you back.

Once you become aware of your limiting self-beliefs, you can stop taking conflict personally, conflict is not about you and it’s not about your beliefs. If you continue to let your limiting beliefs get in the way when dealing with conflict you will feel bad, your self-esteem will be low, you’ll feel stuck, and it will prevent you from being the person you really want to become.

The thing about all this is our minds like to be right, so if you are holding onto those limiting beliefs about conflict or disputes it will pan out exactly the way you are thinking, what you think becomes your reality, think about it!

Let’s talk about strategies for dealing with disputes and conflict.

Emotional awareness or intelligence is a key factor in resolving conflict

Emotional awareness is the ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately, and it is the basis of a communication process that can resolve conflict. Emotional awareness helps you to understand what is troubling others, including what is troubling you, what are your limiting beliefs, and ultimately it allows you to be able to communicate effectively until the dispute is resolved.

Get a new mindset

Conflict is unavoidable, normal healthy relationships will have conflict. You can’t expect two people to agree on every single situation. You can change your mindset, but in order to not let conflict and dispute be bad for your health, you need to be on the growth mindset side of the fence.

Develop new beliefs

Out with the old beliefs and in with the new. Do our worksheet on identifying your limiting self-beliefs and try some new beliefs like:

  • I can cope with conflict

  • I can manage disputes effectively and professionally

  • I am intelligent

  • I am a compassionate and caring person with great core values

Close the loop – put disputes to bed

Develop a strategy to put disputes to bed once and for all. As we’ve already touched on, from an evolutionary place our stress levels remain elevated until we resolve a dispute, for property managers, this is easier said than done, but for your own health and sanity, one of your strongest skill sets should be dispute resolution.

Quick Steps to Help Resolve Disputes

  • Listen. – hear the other person out

  • Breathing – take some deep breaths to get your emotions in check

  • Empathy – put yourself in their shoes

  • Logic/Thought – think about what is really the issue, without all their emotion

  • Time/Space – take some time out and space to think

  • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have a solution and you need some time to think about it, take a time out and come back to them.

  • Seek help – ask your team, team leader for help

  • Offer a solution – end the loop

I came up with a very practical way to work on resolving disputes. I personally used it to help navigate my own way through this complex issue in property management, which can provide so many grey areas. You can download this from our free resources section.

You can also join our Property Management Support group on Facebook and find copies there. We have also shared a whole host of stress-related content as well, so if you are struggling with stress, conflict or disputes jump in and take a look.

If you liked this blog then take a read of these:

So you think you can’t meditate

What excessive stress does to our bodies

Stress is happening to all Property Managers