Personal Triggers & Flooding

Personal Triggers & Flooding

Managing Personal Flooding to find Conflict Resolution

All relationships face conflict & turbulence from time to time – it’s how we react when this happens, ensuring that we cope with’flooding,’ which is important. Where conflict is frequent, intense, and poorly resolved, it can begin to affect not only our relationship quality but also our mental wellbeing.

Conflict resolution skills can aid us to learn our personal triggers and to de-escalate our emotions where stormy debate arises in our relationships. This can increase our empathic approach to communicate our personal needs and restore harmony into a relationship, thereby improving our mental fitness.

Conflict resolution is a skill that most individuals can learn with a bit of an effort, time, and practice using the four steps presented below.


Personal Triggers & Flooding

Learning more about personal triggers, symptoms of ‘flooding’ and developing coping strategies for when this occurs can greatly increase possibility to find conflict resolution.

Research shows that as couple begin to talk about difficult topics their physical reactions raise upwards – their heart rate increases, their hands get sweaty, and their breathing become short and shallow. John Gottman named this response “Flooding.”

In addition to these physical responses to arguing or receiving criticism, research also shows that we become less able to process information or absorb what others are saying. This is not conducive to finding agreement and a way forward.

By learning how to manage our ‘flooding responses,’ we can improve conflict management skills and relationship wellbeing. You can do this by learning what your flooding reactions look like in you. The next time flooding occurs, try to notice your reactions – maybe even write them down (remember, we find it hard to absorb new information when flooding).


Here are four steps to managing your flooding responses;

Step one: Notice when you are flooding.

Pay attention to what’s happening inside of yourself when you are stressed. What are your physical reactions: are you sweating, is your heart beating faster, are you raising your voice? Those are your bodies personal signals to your mind telling you to stop the conversation.


Step two: Pause the conversation.

Just say: “I hear what you are saying, but I need a little break.” The most essential part of asking for a break is your commitment to come back to the issue later. Avoidance does not solve problems; it tends to make things worse and creates feelings of detachment.



Step three: Try to calm yourself down.

Write down a couple of things that you can do to take a break and self soothe in a stressful situation. For example: take a walk or take a few deep breaths. If you need more time, do something more physical, e.g., play football, gardening, whatever works for you, just do it.

Time to self soothe helps to reduce your physical symptoms of flooding. Also, your brain slows down all stress related chemical reactions. Remind yourself that it’s going to be ok, you can work through this and find a way to move forward.


Step four: Return to a conversation.

Come back to the discussion with a calmer perspective. Start by picking just one topic from previous discussion that needs to be resolved.

Sometimes, we need extra help to solve our problems in calmer manner. Having an impartial third party such as a relationship therapist can help to reduce flooding reactions, move conversations forward and help you find resolutions to help sustain your relationships.


So next time you notice somebody else flooding – maybe don’t get annoyed or meet them on their level. Let them know they are flooding, and that they may want to take some time away, and that you will be happy to conclude your discussions when they have had some time to manage their flooding responses.

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