Journaling Techniques

Stop Fighting, Start Journaling: How to Take a Pause and Turn to Your Journal Instead

Instead of allowing disagreements to escalate into full-blown fights, consider taking a pause and turning to your journal instead.

Conflicts and arguments are a regular part of life, and as much as we’d all rather avoid them completely, that’s just not realistic—conflict happens, whether it’s a disagreement with a friend, a heated debate with a family member, or a clash with a colleague at work. Conflicts are an inevitable part of the human experience; it’s how we choose to deal with these conflicts that can make all the difference. Instead of allowing disagreements to escalate into full-blown fights, consider taking a pause and turning to your journal instead. In this blog post, we’ll explore how and why journaling can be a powerful tool for conflict resolution and personal growth.

The Heat of the Moment

When emotions run high and tempers flare, it can be incredibly challenging to maintain a rational and constructive conversation. The heat of the moment often leads to hurtful words, regrettable actions, and a deepening of the divide between individuals. At times like these, taking a step back and disengaging from the fight can be the most sensible and considerate course of action.

Pausing in the heat of an argument doesn’t mean you’re surrendering or avoiding the issue. On the contrary, it’s a strategic decision to ensure that the discussion will ultimately be more productive and healthy. Taking a pause allows you to cool down, regain your composure, and get a little closer to constructive conflict resolution. Easier said than done—but journaling can help!

The Power of Journaling

Turning to journaling in the heat of the moment can provide you with a safe, private outlet to  process your thoughts and emotions. Here’s how.

  1. Vent Your Feelings: Instead of hurling hurtful words at your opponent, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Pour out your emotions, frustrations, and grievances into your journal. Journaling about feelings serves as a form of emotional release and helps prevent the build-up of resentment that often accompanies unresolved conflicts.
  1. Clarify Your Thoughts: Conflicts can be muddled and complicated, making it challenging to express your perspective clearly. With  journaling, you can organize your thoughts and articulate your viewpoint in a coherent and rational manner. This clarity can be immensely helpful when you decide to resume the conversation.
  1. Identify Your Triggers: Through journaling, you can identify the specific triggers that set off your emotional responses. Understanding what makes you react the way you do can be the first step in addressing and managing your emotions more effectively in future conflicts, especially when anger is clouding your understanding of the situation.
  1. Explore Solutions: Your journal can serve as a brainstorming space for potential solutions or compromises. As you write, you might come up with new perspectives or ideas that could be beneficial in resolving the conflict.
  1. Self-Reflection: Journaling provides an opportunity for self-reflection. You can examine your role in the conflict, your contributions to the issue, and your personal growth opportunities. This introspection can lead to more empathetic and considerate interactions in the future.
  1. Give yourself the opportunity to take a pause: It’s normal during conflict to experience a fight or flight response: perhaps you feel like yelling at your opponent, or getting in the car and driving somewhere far away. Giving yourself time to stop, process, and calm down will help you return to a more rational state.
a person writes in their journal

When to Take a Pause

Taking a pause from a fight and turning to your journal isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s essential to know when and how to implement this strategy effectively. Here are some signs that it might be time to step away from a conflict and start journaling:

  1. Escalation: When the argument is getting increasingly heated, and it seems like neither party is willing to listen or compromise, it’s time to step back.
  1. Emotional Overload: If you find yourself overwhelmed with anger, frustration, or sadness, taking a pause can help you regain emotional equilibrium.
  1. Repetitive Arguments: If the conflict revolves around the same issues and keeps resurfacing, it’s a clear sign that a change in approach is needed. Journaling can help you find new perspectives and insights.
  1. Feeling Stuck: When you feel like you’re in a deadlock, unable to move forward or find common ground, journaling can help you arrive at a fresh perspective on the situation.

How to Journal for Conflict Resolution 

If you’re new to journaling or need guidance on how to make the most of it during conflicts, here’s a simple process to follow:

1. Find a Quiet Space

Choose a quiet, private space where you can write without interruptions.

2. Write Freely

Start by writing freely about your thoughts and emotions related to the conflict. Don’t worry about grammar or structure at this stage. Just let your subconscious mind take over. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself and the situation—oftentimes, you already have more answers than you think. 

3. Ask Questions

Pose questions to yourself in your journal. For example:

  • “Why do I feel this way?”
  • “What are the underlying issues in this conflict?”
  • “What matters to me during this disagreement?”

4. Explore Solutions

Use your journal to brainstorm potential solutions or compromises. Write down any insights or ideas that come to mind.

5. Reflect and Reevaluate

After writing, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve written. How do you feel now? Do you have a clearer perspective on the conflict?

6. Prepare for the Conversation

Once you’ve journaled and gained a better understanding of your thoughts and emotions, you can prepare for a more productive conversation with the other party.

Start Journaling Today in Day One

The Day One journaling app makes it easy to build and maintain a daily journaling habit. Daily journaling reminders, daily writing prompts, and journal streaks are designed to help keep you motivated and consistently journaling.

About the Author

Phoebe Kranefuss is a freelance writer and marketer based in Madison, Wisconsin. She’s a lifelong journaler and (almost) daily writer. She studied English Literature at Bowdoin College, is currently pursuing her MFA in fiction at University of Wisconsin–Madison, and has written for and worked with healthtechs including MonumentNOCD, and more.

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