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Emergency Self-Compassion For Conflicts

by Lorraine Segal
September 2010

From Lorraine Segal's Conflict Remedy Blog

Lorraine Segal

Finding compassion for another person we are in conflict with, understanding their issues, perspective, and struggles are valuable tools in resolving issues. But, offering compassion to ourselves can be equally important in dealing successfully with conflict and difficult people.first aid heart

I heard the term emergency self-compassion in a Marshall Rosenberg video on Non Violent Communication. Although this was just a small aspect of his presentation, I found this phrase enlightening.

One challenge for myself and my clients in resolving disagreements is what to do if someone hurts my feelings, but denies any responsibility for it.

Marshall Rosenberg pointed out that we can give ourselves compassion—immediately—and take care of ourselves, even if the other person in the disagreement can’t give us the support or acknowledgement we want in that moment.

Mediators often model how to validating feelings as we listen actively to both parties, but this tool allows us all to honor our own feelings. Offering ourselves this gift helps us remember that feelings aren’t and don’t have to be logical: they are always valid, and we can love ourselves through them. Then, we can detach enough to separate feelings from facts. When we do this, we are less likely to try to prove we’re right and the other person wrong, a dangerous move in any conflict resolution process

I have used this technique myself and shared it with coaching clients, who have found it comforting and valuable. Although it is a form of first aid, it is more than just a band-aid. We become “first responders” to our emotional emergency, staunching the flow of a “bleeding” wound that takes energy and attention from the necessary conversation.

So next time you’re in a difficult interaction, and the other person doesn’t quite get why you are having an intense reaction to their words, you can reach for emergency self compassion in your emotional “first aid” kit and feel better.


Lorraine Segal is a certified Conflict Management coach and teacher, specializing in communication and conflict resolution in the workplace. For many years a middle manager and tenured community college professor, she has her own business, Conflict Remedy LLC.

In her organizational consulting, classes, and coaching, she helps people learn new skills, get “unstuck” from negative stories, and shift their patterns of thinking and reacting so they can learn to: communicate clearly, resolve conflict effectively, and contribute to a more harmonious and productive workplace.

She currently teaches at Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa Junior College, and St. Joseph Health Life Learning Center (Memorial Hospital) and works with various businesses and organizations. 

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