23 Tips for Turning Conflict into Peace

I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter. I bless you with inner peace that glows from your heart.

Unfortunately, holidays are not merry and bright for everyone. I’ve written this article to help people who struggle at this time of the year. However, you can apply these skills 365 days a year.

• Have loved ones passed on? Has there been a divorce or a relationship break-up? Are you still grieving?

• Are there conflicts in your family? Do you try to put on a happy face, but inside you brace against the next insensitive comment?

• Do family members refuse to come together because there is too much pain?

• Is there sickness?

Many people experience one or more of these situations. I want to extend my compassion to those of you who suffer during the holidays. When everything is supposed to happy, we may experience even deeper pain because we are hurting.

Here are 23 suggestions to help you develop inner peace and manage conflict.

1. First, choose to develop inner peace. You don’t have to know how to do it or even be good at it. Just choose it. Ask God to help you. Make a commitment to develop personal mastery even if your mother criticizes you. As a metaphor, if you want to become a black belt karate master, you begin with a white belt. Over time and with lots of practice, you develop high level skills.

2. Notice when you first begin to get upset. Don’t wait for the pressure to build up. It will be more difficult to manage. Observe yourself. Does your voice get edgy? Do you want to fight back? Do you emotionally withdraw? Do you get heady instead of being heart-centered? Do you breathe shallowly? Do your muscles tighten up? That’s what happens when we feel threatened.

3. Take a time-out to center yourself. Soothe your nervous system. It needs help because it went into hyper-arousal when you felt threatened. Our natural reactions are fight, flight or freeze. You might want to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom for some privacy. Or, go for a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale to the count of four. Hold your breath to the count of four, and exhale to the count of eight.

If you go for a walk, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. with every step you take. Breathe into your heart center and imagine your favorite beautiful place in nature.

4. Focus your attention on the people who love you and support you. Breathe that love into your heart. Place an imaginary protective bubble around yourself that envelops you and all the people who support you.

5. Ask for spiritual guidance from God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or however you conceptualize your spiritual support. Don’t just complain. Open your mind and listen to what God wants to communicate to you. Write it down if you can. It will sink in better. God will have a hard time getting through to you if you don’t ask for help. God gives you free will and waits to be invited into your heart and mind.

6. Have compassion for the part of you who struggles. If you try to be tough and stuff your emotions, you’re in effect telling a hurt part of yourself that it is unloved. I often think of this as my inner child. None of us like feeling unloved and neither do our inner family members.

Find the inner family member who feels hurt or angry or scared. Invite them to share their innermost feelings with you. You have a nurturing parent inside of you and the Holy Spirit who is compassionate. Listen to the pain of the inner child. Be empathetic. Ask your inner wise self and God for comfort. This process develops emotional and spiritual intimacy within your internal family. This will help you feel centered again.

You can experience inner peace no matter how others respond to you.

7. Remember, anger often covers up hurt, fear or a sense of rejection. If you lead with your anger or emotional distance, you’ll pull for defensiveness from others. If you lead with your softer feelings, you’ll pull for empathy. I know that’s challenging, but that’s what personal mastery looks like.

8. Take responsibility for your own emotional reactions. Don’t blame others. What arises from within you is the material from your own psyche. It’s your stuff. Own it.

I know it’s tempting to blame others and get angry with them when they don’t behave the way you want them to. You feel more powerful when you’re angry or stoic. But this is not the way to genuine empowerment, nor is it the way to inner peace. It perpetuates the cycle of suffering within yourself and your family.

9. You don’t have control over changing other’s reactions. Accept that. All you can do is take responsibility for returning yourself to inner peace.

10. When there’s a conflict, don’t get quiet or blow up. After you center yourself, apologize for anything you can take responsibility for.

11. Reach out to repair the relationship breach. Begin with a soft sincere voice and look directly into the other person’s eyes.

12. Tell your family member something positive … how much they mean to you … or give them a sincere compliment. Affirm them. That helps build an emotional attachment.

13. Tell them what is hurtful to you. Speak about your own emotions. Share the interpretations you made and check them out for accuracy. Don’t assume you are right. Get feedback and keep an open mind. Don’t analyze the other person and make them wrong. People tend to get defensive when you do that.

14. Invite them to share their feelings. Listen to understand.

15. Unless they have lots of training in communication skills, they may not take personal responsibility or listen well. Have compassion. They are doing the best they can. Listen for the heart of their pain.

16. Empathize and validate their feelings whenever you can. You don’t have to agree with them. Don’t argue about the facts and stay in your head. Express that you genuinely care about their pain.

17. After several interchanges, hopefully, your hearts will be more connected. Ask: “What can I do to support you right now?” Listen to understand.

18. Make a promise to help lessen their pain. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Do what you can.

19. Ask this question if you feel it is appropriate: “Would you like to know what you can do to support me right now?” Develop warmth and caring first.

20. Offer concrete specific suggestions. Focus on creating solutions rather than continuing to complain.

21. You may not do any of this perfectly. Do what you can. Start with one small step. Which suggestion do you want to start with? Practice that one thing.

22. Remind yourself of your goals. Put a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, your desk or your car dashboard. Set alarms on your smartphone. Choose a picture that symbolizes your goal and set it as wallpaper on your phone or computer. Make a sign and hang it on the door as you exit your house.

23. Be compassionate with yourself when you fail. Be compassionate with others. We all carry pain, and we don’t always know how to express it in the wisest way. Practice, practice, practice. That’s what it takes to move from a white belt to a black belt karate master.

Well, there you have it. I’ve given you two blueprints. One to manage your emotional reactivity and one to repair relationship breaches. I know it’s easier said than done. It takes practice just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

Blessings to you for inner peace, wisdom and love.

Benita A Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor 

Would you like to improve your conflict management skills and experience more inner peace? Video and audio conferences are available worldwide. In-person visits and intensive retreats take place in Georgia, USA. Ask for a complimentary 10-minute phone interview to see if we are a good fit. Complete the contact form on either of my websites:

Watch these videos:
Click here to watch the video about my bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert, Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.

Click here to learn about research by Dr. John Gottman on what makes masters and disasters of marriage.
“Four Horsemen: Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Marriage.”


Why We Think We Shouldn’t Be Needy

by Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor

“In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” ―Sue Johnson, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships


Do you judge yourself for being needy? Well, I did for the longest time. Read more


Valentine’s Couples Retreat 2019

This is a semi-private group retreat perfect for couples who want to strengthen their marriage. It is also for engaged and dating couples who want to prevent unnecessary problems from arising in the first place.

One day: February 16, 2019. 9:30am – 5:30pm

Young Harris, Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia

As couples move beyond the “honeymoon” phase, they inevitably encounter conflicts. If not handled skillfully by both people, emotional wounds mount up, adding one more brick to an invisible wall. Don’t wait until the wall is too high to climb. Invest in the training you need to create the flourishing relationship you know is possible. Read more


Marriage Enrichment Workshop

One Thursday, January 19, 2017. 7:00pm-8:30pm

Free and open to the public. Registration required.

Do you know …

  1. Half of all marriages that end, do so in the first 7 years.
  2. Four behaviors predict divorce with 94% accuracy: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  3. Two behaviors predict divorce at 16 years of marriage.
  4. Unhappy couples have a 35% increased chance of serious illness.
  5. Happy couples live 4-6 years longer.
  6. Trying to solve conflicts when you are too stressed only makes things worse. It is kind of like talking to a drunk. You won’t get anywhere.

Couple Middle Age BrunettIn this workshop, you will learn practical tools to become a master of marriage.

  1. Discover the 4 most deadly behaviors that kill marriages so you can stop doing them.
  2. Communicate, listen and empathize so you develop emotional intimacy, physical intimacy and spiritual intimacy.

Who Should Attend

  • Married couples and pre-marital couples: engaged, co-habitating, dating.
  • This workshop is inappropriate couples with severe relationship distress, significant emotional or physical abuse, serious emotional or mental health problems, relationships where one or both partners are actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, and relationships with serious compulsive behavior with gambling, sexual acting out (including affairs), and other disruptive behaviors. If these situations are discovered during class, a referral will be made for individual or couples psychotherapy.

This workshop does not include sharing problems publicly. Since the class involves couples doing exercises together, both partners must participate.

This workshop is based on these books:

  • The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, PhD. Three decades of research on what makes masters and disasters of marriage.
  • Biblical Reference Guide for the Gottman Method by David Penner, PhD
  • Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, PhD. (Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy)

Want a Preview? Watch this TV interview. Search YouTube for Benita Esposito

Where: United Community Bank, Community Room. 177 Highway 515 East, Blairsville, GA 30512

When: One Thursday, January 19, 2017. 7-8:30pm. Please arrive by 6:45pm.

Format: Lecture, interactive exercises and Q&A discussion.

Tuition: Free

Registration required by 1/17/17. Space is limited to 10 couples.

Call Benita Esposito, LPC at 770-998-6642. Email:, or complete the Contact Form on this website.

Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito is a 29_BenitaEsposito2011 69KB closeupLicensed Professional Counselor with a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology. She has practiced psychotherapy for three decades, helping individuals and couples in private sessions, groups and intensive retreats. She belongs to Good Shepherd Episcopal Church and lives in Young Harris, Georgia. Psychotherapy in Georgia, in-person, telephone and videoconference. Spiritual Counseling worldwide.


Marriage Essentials: Appreciation and Affection

Do you know that expressing appreciation is one of the essential ingredients of a happy marriage? That’s right. According to Dr. John Gottman’s research, we must express at least five positive interactions to neutralize the impact of one negative interaction. In really happy marriages, couples express 20 positives to every one negative. The mostly destructive interactions contain criticism, defensiveness, contempt or stonewalling. When we express ourselves in this way without effective repair attempts, Gottman predicts divorce with 94% accuracy. Read more


Marriage Counseling Story: A True Resurrection

“Our Journey Together With Benita A. Esposito”

 We started our journey with Benita just over eight months ago.  Our 15 year old marriage was hanging on by a shredded string … Read how they resurrected their marriage. Read more


Marriage Counseling, Increasing Marital Intimacy: Carol’s Story.

Carol’s heart was racing, literally. She thought it could be a heart attack, so she went to the emergency room. An MRI revealed no heart dysfunction, so her doctor diagnosed it as a panic attack. She came to therapy because she wanted to discover the underlying cause so she could heal the condition without drugs.

Session 1. Carol opened our first session by explaining her recent medical emergency and then announced, “Let me tell you what I think is really causing this. It’s my relationship with my husband!”

Scott had been angry with her for years. He was a plant manager for a multi-billion dollar corporation. They had attended marriage counseling for a short time years ago with another therapist, but the same pattern continued. Carol’s voice reeled with bitterness from years of unresolved conflicts. Her rapid-fire words launched missiles of pain and anger. Once she threatened to leave the marriage, but she had no job, so she stayed. He treated her with more respect after that, but they lived like roommates.

I explained, “Carol, if you want to heal this the quickest way possible, I need to see you and your husband together, not just you.  It takes two to tango. If you both learn the skills to create intimacy and resolve conflicts, you can have a successful marriage and your health will increase.”

“I don’t want Scott involved. He will feel so hurt.  I haven’t told him all the things I told you.”

I suggested, “Each of us is responsible for our own feelings. You need to express your truth in the kindest way possible, and let Scott be responsible for his own feelings. Your job is to accept responsibility for your emotions and reactions. You need to learn how to maintain your sense of self and simultaneously experience healthy connection. Your reactions to each other are the tip of the iceberg. These patterns started in childhood and they are exposed in your marriage. You both have a major opportunity to heal and grow.”

“I see what you mean. I want a happier marriage, and I want to be healthy. Those heart palpitations really scared me. I’ll ask him to attend a session, but I don’t think he will.”

Scott was a high-level executive in a Fortune 500 company, and he prided himself on fixing others problems. He did not like to ask for help.

Session 2. I placed a phone call to Scott, inviting him to join us. Miracles never cease.  He showed up at our second session.  I knew I had to gain his respect quickly or I would lose him.  Although I was a bit anxious to be in the presence of such a powerful leader, I realized that I instinctively knew how to work with this kind of man because I had grown up with one, my father.  I was able to combine just the right blend of intellect and emotional empathy. I acknowledged how difficult it might have been for him to come to see me, and that it might be difficult for him to trust me. I made good eye contact while conveying compassion. Feeling respected, he agreed to return for more sessions with his wife.

Before therapy, Carol had seen Scott as an insensitive business leader, caring more about accomplishing tasks than tending to their marriage. She did not think he would open up. But when I looked inside his heart, I saw the teddy bear hiding inside.

He confided to me, “I want to help Carol and our marriage, but I do not think I can. I promised him that I could help him learn the needed skills.

Session 3. Scott’s Background:  Scott’s parents expected excellence, and he produced it. There was little emotional connection or physical affection between his parents, or between his parents and him. Scott sent his feelings underground. He graduated top of his class in high school and in college. He held executive level jobs and worked long hard hours.  He played the trumpet from age 9 to 24, and he was a member of an elite college band, yet he reported, “I’m not a real musician because I cannot play requests at a moment’s notice.”

Carol was an accomplished artist, writer and poet. She grew up with parents who were emotionally distant, too.  She learned to be tough, perfect, and to ignore her own needs. She was stoic, angry, and critical of Scott.  I wondered what held these two together. I looked for the best place to intervene.

I offered, “Scott, I know you see yourself as a left-brained engineer-type, but my assessment shows that you are primarily right brain dominant.  I think your true nature is to be relationship-oriented, creative, philosophical and spiritual. I know you are very smart, but underneath your stoicism, I see a kind-hearted teddy bear. What do you think of that?”

He looked perplexed. I sensed he wanted my help to let his soft side emerge, although he did not say so at the time. He had to think about it, and I gave him time.

Session 4.  I taught them standard communication skills. (1) Listening skills which include paraphrasing your partner’s message, empathizing and validating.   (2) “I messages” to convey your own experience as follows:

“I feel _______ (Describe your emotion and take responsibility for it.)

when you __________ (Share a non-blameful description of your partner’s behavior.)

because  _________  (Describe the tangible effect on you if there is one.)

Make a request for behavior change that will help you.

Scott sat in the rocking chair, and Carol perched on the sofa across from him.  Carol timidly shared, “I don’t want to hurt you.”

He returned her gaze with big puppy dog eyes. He wanted to understand her and felt anguish because of her pain. His hardened intellect melted into compassion.

Carol offered her “I message” cautiously, not wanting to arouse his anger. “I feel anxious before you come home every night.  I don’t know what mood you will be in, and I get so scared when you are angry. I never know what to expect.”

He continued to gaze at her, surprised but wanting to know more.

“Carol, tell him how you feel in your body,” I prompted. She held her breath. Her chest tightened. The back of her shoulders braced, and her jaws clenched.

“Oh, my head hurts!” she exclaimed.  “Oh, it really hurts!”

The familiar emotions and sensations she stuffed for years rose to the surface. This time, she felt safe enough to express them to Scott, but she was still scared.

“Carol, breathe. You can do this. Breathe.”  I coaxed.  She took some deep breaths.

I thought to myself: If I continue to sit in my chair several feet away, she will express herself superficially. But if I sit next to her, she will feel supported enough to go all the way into the feelings and sensations, and she will heal more completely as I engage Scott’s compassion.

I said to Carol, “I’m going to sit right beside you and support you. Is that OK with you, and may I touch you?”

“Yes.”  She willingly accepted the invitation.

I placed one hand on her upper back to help her body feel safe.

“Breathe, Carol, breathe.”  She was afraid to feel the pain, and to reveal it to Scott.

“Oh, the pain!”  She held the right side of her head.

“Breathe,” I said in a low, reassuring voice. “Just breathe and feel.”

“I am not supposed to feel weak.  I’m supposed to be tough and have it all together,” she retorted.

I held my hand steady on her body.  She breathed a little more and allowed herself to feel scared.

Looking at her husband, she said, “I don’t want you to feel hurt.  You have to go back to work after this.”

I intervened, “Carol, highly sensitive people like you feel what others feel. Let him have his own feelings and let him be responsible for himself.  He can handle this.”  She brought her attention back into her own body. She placed her attention under my hand that was still supporting her back.

This time, with more feeling in her voice, she said to him, “I get so scared when I don’t know how you’ll treat me when you come home.  It really bothers me.”

He practiced empathy. “I see how scared you get. I had no idea. I can see how you would feel that way.” Then he added, “I am so sorry for your pain, and I will try to stop that behavior so you don’t hurt.” His sad puppy dog eyes revealed his aching heart.

“It helps me so much to see you looking at me with soft eyes. I feel safe now,” she whispered with appreciation.

My steady hand helped her shift the energy in her chest.  She was able to breathe easier and deeper.

“How’s your headache, Carol?”

“It’s gone!  It’s gone!” she exclaimed.

She jumped up and gave Scott a big hug.  “Thank you so much for understanding. It means so much to me!”  Tears glistened in her eyes.

He received her hug and returned it. (I knew he was a teddy bear in disguise.)

Turning to me, he said, “I feel so inadequate to do the right thing to help her. I really want her to be happy.”

“I know. You can learn the skills.  Remember all those years you practiced the trumpet?  How many years did it take for you to become good?  How many years have you been married?” He was putting the whole thing in perspective.

“You know how to practice and become masterful. After a year or two you will have these skills down pat.  But just like with the trumpet, if you want to be really good, you will have to practice for years, not because you have to, but because you want to become masterful at intimacy with your wife. You can do this,” I affirmed.

Scott saw the bigger picture.  He could not know all the lessons that would lie ahead, but he had hope, and he trusted me to show him the way.

Carol had more courage and confidence to share her feelings with Scott so he could support her. She learned to give him specific requests, instead of throwing out complaints that felt like bombs. He learned to feel his emotions and reveal more of himself.

“Practice these skills,” I encouraged them before they left, “and you will become masters.”

Follow-up Sessions. They attended sessions together for one year. Sometimes Carol attended alone where I helped her heal emotional wounds from childhood. When I checked with them four years later, they were happy. They continued to use their skills. Carol’s self-esteem glowed as she told me about how delighted she was in her career. She rented space in an artist studio where she socialized with creative, out-of-the-box people, just like herself. Life was good!

Your Reflections

1) When you hold in your emotions, where do you feel aches and pains?

2) In what ways do your coping behaviors help you live a healthy life?

3) How do your coping behaviors diminish your health, and intimacy in your significant relationships?

I use Gottman Method Couples Therapy and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy by Dr. Sue Johnson.

About the Author: As a Psychotherapist, Benita A. Esposito, MA, LPC combines a master’s degree in psychology and 4 decades of career wisdom. Combining her intuitive ability to understand people at depth with classical training, she gets to the bottom line quickly so people can efficiently resolve challenges and move into their full potential. Benita facilitates people to develop and sustain flourishing personal and business relationships rooted in The Authentic Self.


Click here to Contact Benita Esposito for a complementary 10-minute phone get-acquainted visit. Or call 770.998.6642.

(Clients names were changed to preserve confidentiality.)

Copyright 2004. All Rights Reserved.  The Esposito Institute, Inc.


12 Keys to Conflict Management

My first mentor told me, “Conflict is a necessary part of intimacy.” 

I didn’t want to hear that. I hated conflict, but his words rang true. I knew I wasn’t good at conflict management, and because of that, many of my relationships did not thrive. That was 30 years ago and since then, I have spent zillions of hours learning how to handle conflict productively. Read more


How Husbands Help Their Wives Heal: Jenny’s Story

bhThe Rewards of Effective Conflict Management.

Jenny’s heart was racing. An MRI revealed no heart dysfunction, so her doctor diagnosed it as a panic attack. She wanted to discover the underlying cause so she could heal the condition without drugs. Read more


Healing the Heart: Emily’s Story

square04Body-Mind-Spirit Healing

Research published by the American Medical Association indicates 90% of all disease is stress-related. The mind, body, emotions and spirit intricately affect each other. When we heal the emotional or spiritual root of dis-ease, pain and other physical symptoms can ease up, and sometimes they vanish completely. That is a really exciting part of my work!  I’ll show you what I mean in the following story. You’ll understand how psychotherapy can accelerate healing, and is an adjunct to traditional medicine.

Emily suffered from constant chest pain that was so severe she had difficulty breathing.
The pain persisted for weeks and was getting worse, even with prescribed medication. Her doctor suspected an emotional root to the pain, and referred Emily to me. Read more