Perfect timing: this article just appeared on my newsfeed: http://time.com/3892044/the-science-of-bouncing-back/ (please note I’ve not background checked it – if you do and you spot a problem, please tell us all in the comments).
It’s a interesting and easy read, so totally worth it, but a quick summary is:
- Resilience is a set of skills that can be learnt, not a disposition or personality type.
- “Resilient people seem to have the capacity to appropriately regulate the subcortical fear circuits under conditions of stress” – i.e., they can limit their panicking under stress, and can quickly calm themselves down.
- Practicing with little stressors help us prepare with big ones.
- You have to find out what techniques best work for you, but things that seem to work include: facing the things that scare you; developing an ethical code to guide decision-making; building a support network; building physical strength; practicing mindfulness.
People competent at handling emergencies are able to navigate through them instead of being tossed about by them. And, like canoeists can practice to handle rapids, we can practice to handle what life throws at us. We can literally reconfigure our neural pathways to make our responses more effective.
This research backs up the conflict management techniques and issues presented in previous blogs. People can train themselves to handle conflict in the same way that they can train themselves to handle other stressors. In fact, this ought to be relatively easier than with other stressors, as a lot of everyday conflict can be highly predictable.
If we choose to think about it, we can all anticipate what sort of conflicts we are most likely to encounter; whether it’s backstabbing colleagues, hot-and-cold bosses, sex pests on public transport, unreliable family members, flaky friends, etc., we all know what ails us on a regular basis. With enough exposure, we can collect enough data points to make the behaviour of those around us highly predictable. We can learn to anticipate what people are likely to do, so we can manage the resulting fallout or avoid it altogether. In fact, if they are not honest with themselves about their behaviour, we can learn to anticipate what they are going to be doing before THEY do. Their self-awareness will be clouded by the story they are telling themselves about themselves, while our predictors are based purely on their past behaviour.
This is remarkably easy, yet so many of us choose not to do it. In fact, we’ve made it increasingly socially unacceptable. Making educated predictions on people’s future actions is “judgemental”. Furthermore, shaping situations in order to avoid or avert future conflict is “manipulative”. We operate as if there was a moral high ground to be gained by refusing to learn from past experiences, for dealing with people as they really are, rather than as they’d like to be, and basically for getting blindsided all the time. For a society that abhors conflict, we seem to be awfully determined to deprive ourselves of the means of avoiding much of it.