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Triggers can be kind of spooky: Learn how to Identify them & resolve conflict

Think about the last time you were in a conflict with someone. Were you able to identify what caused the feelings you were having (other than the conflict itself)? Was it difficult to discover why the conflict was happening in the first place? If you were able to identify what was bothering you in that moment and determine where those feelings stemmed from, you were identifying your triggers. Triggers are anything that remind you of previous trauma . They help us to learn what may be unresolved, what things we need to address, and why we may be feeling certain feelings. Conflict doesn’t always have to be bad. If both individuals are able to communicate their needs and identify triggers, it could change the outcome of your conflict tremendously. Here are a few tips to help you navigate conflict and identify your triggers. 

  1. What caused the interaction to escalate?

Often, this is where past familiar feelings show up. When historical situations arise, they often show up in our current communication with others if they haven’t been resolved. 

  1. Discover why these triggers are showing up for you

Reflection is helpful here. Think about your experiences in childhood or even in your past in general  (separate from your current relationship) and think about when you were triggered in the same way or had similar feelings. Share this incident with the other person (if you are the other person, actively listen and display empathy). 

  1. Use “I” messages. 

When expressing your feelings during a conflict (or even in normal conversation) it is important to remain on the topic of self rather than focusing on what the other person may have done or blaming. Expressing feelings by starting off with “You” can lead the other individual to feel defensive and on guard as if  they need to defend themselves. 

  1. Think about ways the conversation could be improved for next time. 

What is one way the other person can make it better if this situation happens again? What is one way that you can make it better next time? Healthy communication is a collaborative effort. If one person isn’t doing the work to practice these skills, it will be more difficult to see the results that lead to healthy conflict. 

These tips take a large amount of intentionality and practice in order to implement. It is not a quick fix. It can be difficult to begin introspection and dig deep into vulnerability on certain topics. It may seem scary at first but these emotions are normal. Once you discover the truth behind your feelings, your personal relationships will begin to change drastically. Practicing these skills in your personal and intimate relationships will lead you to more insight and things will all start to come together. This insight will help person discover what behaviors to avoid and different ways to have constructive conversations when conflicts come up. 

Im rooting for you. 


Alexis Long-Daniels , M.A., ALC, NCC

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