Navigating Conflict

You found out a friend of yours was talking about you behind your back.

She said some hurtful, and frankly inaccurate, things about you to another person and it got back to you.

Over the past few weeks she’s been short with you, making rude comments under her breath, being avoidant.  Recently she got very mad, yelling at you, calling you names and attacking you verbally.

You feel small around her, like you aren’t good enough. You shut down when she is attacking, not sure what to say or do. You’re not sure what to do to make it stop.


Sometimes it’s difficult to stand up to a dominant person because you don’t feel confident about yourself. Maybe you tend to avoid conflict because you believe your needs aren’t important, or you worry that if you ask for what you need people won’t follow through or take you seriously.

Experiencing challenging, traumatic, or abusive situations in your past impacts the way you view yourself and your ability to stand up and be assertive with others. Negative self-talk keeps you in the same cycle, possibly believing that you deserve the aggression.


So what can you do when a person in your life is being a bully?

Try these steps to navigate conflict with a challenging person:

Distance yourself.  In most situations finding ways to distance yourself will help you gain perspective to the situation. It’s possible this person is a friend, acquaintance, parent at your child’s school, coworker. Look at where you see and interact with this person and find ways to take a step back. Maybe you skip the PTA meeting for a week, eat lunch in a new area to avoid this person at work, or change your daily routine around. A small break will help you gain perspective on how to interact and change this situation.

Be assertive. Use clear, direct and assertive communication. Tell this person how you are feeling and ask for a change in the situation.  Here’s an example of a statement that can help you speak assertively:  I feel ________ (describe your feeling) when ______ (situation that is happening). I would like __________ (describe your desired solution).  Be very clear about what outcome you would like (for example, you want them to stop talking about you behind your back).

Remind yourself that “It’s not me, it’s you”.  I’m not talking about shirking all your responsibility. A vital step in resolving conflict is to take an honest evaluation of the situation, own your stuff, own your part in contributing to the situation, and then recognize what part the other person has in this encounter.

Recognizing your responsibility means finding out how your actions contributed and making steps to change. After that, reminding yourself “It’s not me, it’s you” can be a helpful part in not taking all the blame. 

Seek support.  Enlisting support from those around you to address the situation with this person may be necessary. If this is occurring in the workplace, notify a supervisor or human resources. If it’s a friend, ask a mutual friend to help mediate the interactions. The key here is to speak up and ask for help from others.

Evaluate the relationship. If the above steps haven’t made a difference in the relationship, it may be time to evaluate if this relationship is important to you and worth keeping. It may be time to gently cut ties and move on.

Taking the steps above will help you assert the power you have inside of you. You have confidence inside, but it might be hidden or have been stifled in the past. Be bold. Take the time to evaluate what is right for you in this moment, and then do what works!

If you need support or help finding the best way to be assertive with a challenging person in your life get in touch with me. I’d love to help. You can email me directly at or call at 916-547-3997.


Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist who provides psychotherapy to people healing from trauma and abuse, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. She has an office located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  To schedule an appointment, please call (916) 547-3997 or email