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Understanding Internal Conflict – Nicole Posner

Managing Challenging Behaviours

Challenging behaviours are one of the main indicators of stress and frequently the cause of workplace conflict.  Lashing out through frustration, using clipped communication styles, sarcasm or micro-managing are all types of behaviours that illustrate an underlying issue bubbling away. In daily life and at work, we can face a myriad of stressful situations and problems to navigate.  It’s not always easy and experiencing our own internal conflict adds to this.

As a Workplace Mediator, Conflict Resolution is my niche and I help to facilitate resolution and I’m always very aware and mindful of external and internal conflict in my own life.

It all starts with awareness

There was a poignant moment for me earlier in my career that helped me understand more about my own inner conflict and behavior.

It was a Friday afternoon on a full flight to Scotland with the usual boarding chaos and a fight for space in the overhead lockers.  Passengers were crammed in the aisles searching for a few square inches to squeeze in their hand luggage, pushing and pulling other people’s possessions to fit theirs in.

Suddenly, a person next to me roughly shoved my hold all out of the way to accommodate theirs; without any due care or consideration whether there might be something fragile inside.

It saw red! I confronted them without thinking first. It escalated. Passengers stared and my husband looked at me in shock -who was this imposter and where had his calm and collected ‘conflict resolution’ wife gone?

We worked it out like adults, of course, but I was left with a deep sense of confusion, embarrassment and humiliation that I had behaved so irrationally and out of character.

Dealing with the conflict of others was my business. Surely, I should know better?

I realised this was my own ‘inner conflict’ and this event had triggered something in me.

My reaction was seemingly disproportionate to the actual event but, on reflection, I understood it.  One of my highest values is respect and I considered my bag being shoved out disrespectful which conflicted with my value.

Our core values highlight what we stand for, they guide our decisions and actions and if we perceive these to be conflicted in any way, we respond accordingly. When we understand our values better, we can navigate the internal (and external) conflicts better.

How do you manage Internal Conflict?

When internal conflict occurs, the key is to understand why by asking questions to help illuminate what’s at the core for you.

  • Awareness: Start with identifying the reason the situation or event irritated or upset you. Was it the way someone spoke to you, what they said -or didn’t say? Pause and reflect. How did you feel?
  • What’s behind that feeling? For example, the need for recognition, loyalty, safety, security or support or encouragement.
  • Consider why that’s important to you. Does recognition make you feel worthy, professional, respected and valued?
  • Get clarity around how to use this understanding. Do you want to share with others to help them understand your triggers or learn from it to raise your own self-awareness?

Take notice of how internal conflict shows up for you. Understand it rather than letting it define, control and consume you – and use it as an opportunity for change, growth and liberation in all areas of your work and life.


Nicole Posner is a Workplace Mediator and Executive Conflict Coach Practitioner, specialising in the Psychology of Conflict.  She works with Leaders, Teams, Managers and individuals to prevent, manage and address conflict and to foster better communication in the workplace. She is author of several published articles on managing workplace conflict and is a regular guest on local radio discussing conflict and communication issues.