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

Before you Speak...THINK

As a kid, I was taught the phrase “I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.”  That’s nice in theory, but is that really true?

In my clinical practice I specialize in helping adults heal from painful and often traumatic experiences that occurred throughout their lives. Much of the healing work around trauma involves changing the cycles and patterns learned in the past and finding new ways of interacting in the world.

On a daily basis I hear about the messages people have been told that stick with them. People who were wounded by negative comments, sometimes intentionally said, sometimes said off-handedly and without much thought to how the statement would impact others. 

You may have had an experience as a child where a friend, parent, or family member said something that has stuck with you, that repeats in your head to this day, and changes how you interact in the world. Possibly it changes your views about yourself or your belief about your capabilities or self-worth.

Unfortunately, because patterns are so invasive, many times you may find yourself saying the same negative comments to your child, friend, partner that you heard from your family when you were young.

Maybe a more accurate version of that childhood phrase would be “I’m glue and you’re glue, whatever you say sticks to me and sticks to you.”  It’s hard to shake those negative comments and even harder to not repeat them to others!

Part of leading an authentic life is being truthful to who you are and genuinely expressing yourself. It’s important, vital, that you are sharing your thoughts, feelings and experiences with others! It’s this genuine expression that creates the deep interconnected relationships we desire.

Sometimes you might find that you get caught up in your own feelings and experiences and forget the impact of your words. You may honestly believe someone is acting “stupid”, but will calling them “stupid” strengthen or benefit that relationship? Will it help resolve the conflict you are experiencing or the frustration you’re currently feeling? Probably not. 

Here’s a trick to you change those communication patterns:

Before you speak, THINK.  Is it True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

Ready to do some self-evaluation? Grab some paper and jot down your thoughts to the following questions.

  • Think of a situation recently where you said words out of anger. Maybe it was with your kids, partner, or at work.

  • Take a moment to really reflect upon what words you said. What emotions were you feeling before and after this interaction? What outcome did you want from the situation and did your words help you get to your desired outcome?

  • Now take a few moments to use the “Before you speak… THINK” concept. Reflect if your words were true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.

  • How would the interaction have differed if you had used words that were true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind?

  • How could you have expressed yourself differently in a way that showed respect for yourself and others and genuinely express your feelings, thoughts and needs?

  • What is one thing you are willing to change about future interactions?


Changing a pattern in your life takes practice and effort, especially if you have a history of experiencing trauma. Be kind to yourself, this may take some time.

This new way of interacting may not come easy at first. I can guarantee most people don’t stop and evaluate “THINK” before they speak! However, if you’re able to integrate this process into your interactions, you will find that your interactions are more genuine, connected and positive.

I hope you challenge yourself today and over the next few weeks to evaluate your interactions and find ways that you can authentically express yourself in words that honor you and others.

If you’re interested in learning more ways to change your communication with others, resolve trauma and pain from your past, or be more authentic in your self-expression please call or email to arrange a free telephone consultation. Let me know how I can help! 916-547-3997


Adriana Joyner, LMFT is a Sacramento Area therapist who specializes in providing counseling to people healing from trauma and abuse, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email