Blog Article

Managing Conflict in Our Lives: Part 1...External Noise...

Posted by Humadyn Life Skills Institute on February 21, 2014 5:03 pm

Click here to listen to the audio version

Over the Pictureyears I’ve noticed something striking about conflict.  That it’s on the rise—and fairly dramatically.  And while it’s happening all over the world--in our governments, societies, communities, churches and more--what’s most concerning to me is the amount of conflict taking place in our homes and amongst friends and families. 

So in this 3 part series I hope to encourage and motivate you to take steps to minimize the personal and unproductive conflict in your life.  I also hope to help you move closer to reconciling differences and making peace with [particularly] the people in your life that you care about. 

Now … one of the big things directly contributing to the rise of conflict in our lives and in our society is an underlying current of stress.  On a number of levels and from a variety of sources we are experiencing much more stress, general tension, and anxiety. 
But what is the source of that stress?  Well…for one “noise.”  Yes noise.  But more specifically “external noise.”

Just think about it for a second.  Think about all the auditory noise that we experience everyday; everything from motorized vehicles, air crafts, factories, power tools, machines, air conditions, music…to people talking on cell phones.  That’s just the beginning of a very long list.  

10 years ago my family and I could sit outside on our deck and enjoy a fairly quiet and peaceful evening.  However, since, our area has grown and just the traffic alone has substantially increased the amount of background noise.  It is definitely an irritant.

I say background noise…as though it's been relegated to the “background”… as though we don’t notice it any longer.  But it’s not called noise pollution for nothing. 

In fact it is harmful because--as I’m suggesting--it is an impetus for conflict.  Noise stimulates conflict by creating an undercurrent of stress, tension and anxiety in our lives and society. 

There are many studies that support this notion.  The Dept. of Psychiatry at the University of London conducted a study in 2003 and found that noise defined as ‘unwanted sound’ is in fact a real environmental stressor.”  There was another study in 2011 by the World Health Organization that found that “excessive noise ranks only second to air pollution as a leading environmental cause of health problems…and that the most pervasive impact noise pollution has on health is that it cause sleep problems.”  Other studies bring out that noise pollution not only affects our sleep, but our mood, concentration, eating habits…even respiration and heart rate.  You can see where this is going!   

So let put this all together…noise causes stress, stress increases respiration and heart rate, which causes your body to secrete hormones (like adrenaline), which puts your body into a fight or flight mode.

Now remember…this not a one time event, but a chronic state of stress and anxiety.  You can begin to see how noise—by way of stress and anxiety—might contribute to conflict in our daily lives. 

But by the way…that’s just the auditory noise.  There are other noise-factors that stimulate conflict in our lives. 

Think for a moment about your daily life…and all the other “noise” you are experiencing.  For instance…many of us live in busy and crowded circumstances; thus...the traffic, crowds, the tempo.  We live in a very hurried and fast-paced world which is a breeding ground for stress and therefore conflict. 

There is also much noise and conflict being generated through social media portals…such as on Facebook and twitter.  I remember last year during the presidential elections.  Things got really ugly on Facebook.  And by the way…when it comes to conflict and social media, there is a very basic principle at work here: That the more people present in our lives, the more we interact; and the more we interact, the more we will likely disagree; and therefore stimulate conflict.  

Further, in modern times people have become more open with their thoughts.  And while most of us want to see the best in people…we can’t ignore that being crass, rude, and even aggressive seems to be the norm these days.  And this will continue to grow…because, louder begets louder and aggression begets aggression.

Then finally—and I won’t go into them—but I’d be remiss to not mention how the media, politics and world events are injecting stress, tension, and conflict into our lives.  Enough said.

So when you put all of this together…“noise” and chaos is not just relegated to our background…it has made its way under our skin; into our individual and collective psyche.  Many are walking around with an underlying negative mood; a mood that’s making us less patient, less tolerant, less polite, less friendly, less optimistic; but rather, making us more anxious, louder, bolder, ruder, and cynical.  Again, this is a predisposition for conflict. 

I know this all sounds dark and negative…but I point it out to build the case and persuade you to take action to reduce the amount of noise, stress and conflict in your life.  The good news is that much of the noise pollution I just mentioned is external to us and to a great degree can be managed, and even cut out of our lives if we choose.

So how do you do that?  Well let me offer you three fairly simple steps you can take.

  1. First…you have identify the sources of the “noise.”  Think about the who, what or where the unwanted noise is coming from.  Is it social media, news/radio, a person or people in your life?  In fact you can go a step further by carrying around an index card…and just take notes for about week.  You may surprise yourself.
  2. Secondly, once you’ve identified the sources of noise…you’ll then have make decisions as far as “what to do about it all.”  As an example let’s take my Facebook experience during the 2012 elections.  As I suggested earlier, the chatter and interaction had become really negative and unhealthy.  And I must admit, I contributed to the problem.  In any event, first I decided that no matter how passionate or right I thought I was about my political positions—I knew such negative discourse just wasn’t good for me, my friends, nor our relationships.  So for starters I cleaned up my own act.  I made a few apologies and then set up new guidelines for how I would behave on Facebook going forward. 

    Next…I cleaned up--or I should say cleaned out--my Facebook page.  I first did a simple purge of all the "haters."  Next, I unsubscribed from the “status updates” of those who I liked and wanted to stay friends, but didn’t want to hear all their negative rants.

    To be clear...I wasn’t trying to create this perfectly harmonious Facebook experience.  But I had to do something to reduce all destructive and unproductive conflict; for my health & wellness and that of the people I cared about.  I must say, these steps made a huge difference.  My FB experience is much more pleasant and enjoyable; most of the time that is.

    Of course these two steps are easier in a virtual setting like the Internet.  But what’s harder…yet just as important is to look at the people you interact with face-to-face.  If there is someone in your life who is constantly negative—beyond what you are willing to tolerate…you must consider how you can either limit your interaction with them…or eliminate them from your life altogether.

  3. Every day we meet people and we make decisions about what and who we will be involved with.  So to keep it simple…before allowing new people too deep into your life, just ask a few simple questions.  Like: will this person have a positive or negative affect on my life?  Or something like “do they bring good energy or bad?”  Just remember these words of wisdom from my friend and colleague Robert Stack…He says:       
"People either inspire you, or they drain you...surround yourself with individuals that empower you."
In Part 2 of this series on conflict…I’m going to talk about "Internal noise."

  • Keywords:
  • managing conflict
  • relationships
  • Industries:
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Human Resources