What happens if you're in a conversation or a conflict and the other person is out of control? How do you manage their strong emotional energy, especially when it's forcefully directed at you?

It takes courage to engage in conflict conversations, especially if prior experience produced outcomes that were unwanted, unexpected, or worse. Regardless of how centered and purposeful you are, confronting a problem (especially a problem that's been avoided for a while) can be upsetting - to your partner, the group, and the general atmosphere.

Sometimes you make the decision about whether to bring up a difficult topic. Sometimes the moment is thrust upon you. In either case, there will be energy coming toward you in the form of words, gestures, voice tone, volume, and more that you need to manage.

In the martial art Aikido, when practiced on the mat, my partner and I give and receive energy through blending movements, touch, and intention. Rather than seeing it as an attack, the Aikidoist considers what is coming at her simply as energy to be used and redirected.

Off the mat, you can practice blending and redirecting, too, using movement, words, and attitude to help you:

  • Build a willingness to confront difficult moments,
  • Take care of yourself in the process, and
  • Handle whatever may come as a result.


When strong language or emotion is coming toward you, move. Literally step or turn sideways. Imagine you can see the oncoming verbal and emotional energy moving past you as you watch it, fascinated and curious.


Ask a Question. Let your partner talk until they run out of steam, while you center yourself. If you can't think of a question, here are some generic phrases that may work:

  • "This seems important. Can you say more?"
  • "What specifically is it about this (subject topic, issue, problem) that is most frustrating (annoying, troublesome, upsetting)?"


Don't take anything personally. Easier said than done, I know, but your partner's reaction is really not about you. It is about how he/she sees the situation from their lens on the world, from their story, so ...

Jump into Discovery

Decide to be fascinated with what they're telling you instead of hurt, angry, or any other way of being that limits you.

In General

Whether you choose to bring up a tough topic or the conversation is brought to you, receive your partner's energy with awareness and purpose. You have more power than you think.

Author's Bio: 

Judy Ringer is the author of Unlikely Teachers: Finding the Hidden Gifts in Daily Conflict (http://www.unlikelyteachersbook.com) and the award-winning e-zine, Ki Moments, containing stories and practices on turning life's challenges into life teachers. Judy is a black belt in aikido and nationally known presenter, specializing in unique workshops on conflict, communication, and creating a positive work environment. She is the founder of Power & Presence Training and chief instructor of Portsmouth Aikido, Portsmouth, NH, USA. To sign up for more free tips and articles like these, visit www.JudyRinger.com