This is an excerpt of an interview Cheryl did with Corine Wofford of Be The Difference Brigade. Corine asked Cheryl for her insights into how to handle conflict in personal relationships.

Corine: What are your top 3 tips for Handling Conflict in your interpersonal relationships?

Cheryl: I use and teach a 4 step process. And I also always starts with self-reflection when I’m in a conflict situation. I know that my thoughts, energy and assumptions have a great influence on the outcome of situation. Here are the steps I use.

Step 1: Recognize the emotions you feel. Give them a name.

You can’t deal with them until you know what they are. (Also I always make sure that the
emotions I am feeling are really mine. People around me like to tell me how “should” feel in certain situations and their feelings are not always mine.)

Step 2: Recognize and label the thoughts and beliefs you have associated with the situation or person involved.

For example: I was recently called by the Vice Principal of my son’s school. It seems that on that day he had been in a altercation with another student. Recently, he has been experiencing being bullied by some of the other students.

I had a number of thought and beleifes going through my head as I was on my way to the school. Those thoughts included: Where were the teachers when my child was being bullied? My kid was just defending himself. What do they expect me to do? I’m not at school with him? They say they won’t put up with bullying, but they aren’t doing anything to stop it.

Step 3: Change your expectations and you will respond differently than you typically might have in the same situation.

In the situation with my son and the Principal, my expectation was that the Principal would make me feel that I had not done enough at home to counteract my son’s reaction to the bullying. Like I should have done something different to keep the situation from occuring. Those thoughts caused me to feel small, out of control, hellpless to do anything. As soon as I realized that I held that expectation I changed it. I changed it to, I expect the Princpal to support me and him so this stops happening.

Do you know what happened? She did just that, provided words of support to both of us.

At any point you can choose to a different response, behavior, or demeanor. And when you do it causes others around you to respond differently. Just like the
boss is angry, everyone knows it and walks on eggshells. The same is true on the positive side. You can be lighthearted, fun, friendly and it will cause others to react the same way.

I suggest you practice this and notice what happens.

Step 4: Don’t take anything anyone else does personally

Rarely does anything anyone does have something to do with you. An individual’s behavior is a reflection of that person’s internal struggles, pain, disappointments and/or poor self-worth.

When see someone being a “Debbie Downer” know that her behavior is a reflection of how she feels about herself. She may be feeling incapable, not good enough, overwhelmed or like a failure. Of course, she probably won’t admit it to you.

If you can remember this simple fact, that someone else’s behavior is not about you, you can
then realize that you don’t need to take what they do personally.

(To receive an MP3 recording of the complete interview, please email your request to and Cheryl will send the file to you immediately.)

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