8 Good Reasons Couples Should Embrace Conflict

Conflict can be both bad and good.  This article is focused on the positive value of conflict in relationships.

1. Conflict reminds us of our individual identity

Each individual has a voice, a set of core beliefs and a mode of expressing those beliefs that forms the core self—their identity. This voice is a combination of innate traits, values and,  experiences. Without this identity, individuals cease to exist.  In a conflict, this unique identity often becomes evident when the individual speaks. When couples communicate and are in conflict, the intention in speaking is to be part of the conversation, to matter, and to be afforded the respect of being heard. However, too often this expression of individuality in relationships is perceived as a threat which leads couples to constantly communicate from a defensive posture, therefore, keeping the individual on guard and unwilling to open up and communicate effectively.

2. Conflict is an opportunity for the relationship to grow

Numerous studies have been done on the value of conflict in organizations and more recently other researchers have also attested to value of conflict in relationships.  Researchers have found that couples and organizations that avoid conflict do not grow. Why? Because in an attempt to avoid the discomfort associated with conflict fail to harness hidden potential.  As a conflict resolution expert, I have seen  couples who are at a place of stagnation spend a great deal of time avoiding of conflict, yet, creating stagnation within their relationships.  When couples can learn to respectfully express their ideas and use these ideas to facilitate growth, then, the relationship will move forward.


3. Conflicts can help clarify what is important

There are moments in our lives when an epiphany emerges that makes it clear what we believe in, it clarifies what we long for and what we hold dear. Conflict can be that epiphany. Conflict can be a galvanizing force that quickens the mind to the idea that I matter and what I believe matters.  Relationships can force us to confront these important beliefs regarding our personal stances such on   finances, parenting, roles and responsibilities, sex, careers, recreation and spiritual beliefs. In the face of an opposing position, one is forced to take a position, and clarify what is important.


4. Conflict gives us the opportunity to practice managing stress and anxiety

I hold to the belief that conflict is change knocking at the door—sometimes it’s not a knock but a banging.   However the potential change that conflict can bring can also lead to high levels of anxiety and stress. Conflict can create dis-ease and uncertainty.  It  magnifies the notion that it is better to live in the familiar that in the unknown. Practicing good conflict management skills can help couples reinterpret the stress and anxiety felt during a disagreement as an opportunity to grow in their level of communication and connectedness.  The anxiety and stress is no longer seen as threatening but an opportunity to find creative ways to move beyond an impasse.

5. Conflict can help couples harness growth potential in relationships 

In a conflict some may choose to withdraw or avoid the situation while others may choose to face it head-on. Those who are willing to face conflict head-on have the option to harness the potential growth of conflict. Even in relationships learning negotiation skills and deal making can do much good to harness the potential in relationships.  There are a few basic steps required in order to harness the potential associated with addressing a good conflict head on:

  1. Create a environment where individuals feel safe and respected while discussing an issue
  2. Allow for open and honest communication
  3. Learn and practice negotiation skills
  4. Develop and utilize skills in that foster  positive change

6. Conflict can reveal our inner fear

In the same way that conflict reveals strongly held beliefs it also reveals our fears. In fact, I would argue that it is the intensity of feelings that is fear that leads to conflict. Let me explain. Conflict can awaken feelings of vulnerability and a need to protect something that is deep seated. When confronted with beliefs and values that are different from ours, the fear of losing something held dear to us can trigger defensiveness and sometimes aggression.   The alternative positon is to recognize that your feeling of defensiveness is really fear. In a healthy relationship, the couple can talk about the feelings of fear and find ways to ensure that needs do not go unmet.  Overtime the conflict can often yield positive growth and change.

7. Conflict is a call to action

Couples should recognize that conflict carries a secret message. The message is,  “it is time for a change”. Conflict is a call to action. It is a revelation that someone in the relationship does not like the way things are and therefore a change within the relationship needs to occur. If you accept the idea that change promotes renewal and enthusiasm keeps to the relationship fresh then conflict is a call to act to produce that change.

Conflict can stir engagement in conversation by interacting with one another and addressing the concerns appropriately. There is a tendency, when dealing with a conflict, to either isolate or attack. This reaction occur primarily because of the idea that conflict triggers a primal instinct to preserve what currently exist  the status quo, the world and we see it.  Conflict is therefore perceived as a threat.  This perception of a threat is a misinterpretation of the role of conflict. Conflict within relationships can promote honest communication, vulnerability and emotional risk taking risk which, if respected, can empower the couple to be more engaged and to take action to grow the relationship.

8. Conflict can teach us to innovate

When faced with a conflict couples have three basic choices- 1. Accept that your relationship remains the same.  2. Avoid conflict and confrontation altogether and never address issues. 3.  Decide to confront the conflict and make a change.  If the couple decides to confront the conflict then the parties involved will have the unique opportunity to innovate around the problem. They will have the opportunity to engage in healthy discussion, look at their options and come up with solutions that meet the needs of the couple. The result will be that the couple overtime will learn valuable lesson about how to find solutions to solve problems.


By Carlos Todd, PhD, LPC

Dr. Carlos Todd maintains a private coaching, training, consulting and counseling practice in Charlotte, North Carolina and  specializes in anger management, domestic violence and conflict management. Learn more at carlostodd.com or masteringconflict.com

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Eight Reasons We Don’t Really Need Anger Management Classes

When an individual presents with frequent anger, it has become embedded in our culture to assume they need anger management classes. This position is misleading. While anger is a normal human emotion, chronic anger has many varied causes which, if not correctly diagnosed and treated, can lead to social, emotional and medical problems. With the stakes so high, targeting the root cause of anger and designing appropriate interventions is imperative. Here are eight possible causes of anger and potential treatment options that don’t necessarily include anger management classes.
Physical and Emotional Trauma:
Those who have survived trauma including physical, sexual abuse, war, natural disasters or death, may have learned one fundamental lesson about life—nothing and no one is safe. This intensity of this type of emotional disturbance can drive anger by creating a persistent need to defend oneself from real or perceived danger. Anger acts as a façade–a defense mechanism to keep others at bay. Many of these individuals who use this defensive technique, long for closeness and intimacy, however, they cannot risk being hurt again therefore anger acts to keep them safe. Anger management classes alone cannot improve these situations. Psychotherapy is recommended in order to assist in the desensitization of the emotional trauma and renewing feelings of emotional safely.

Poor Communication:
Effective communication requires accurate sending and accurate receiving of information. Poor communication skills often result in emotional needs and expectations not being met which in turn can lead to both the sender and the receiver of information angry and frustrated. Poor communication styles include being passive, passive aggressive and even aggressive communication techniques. Poor communicators need first to learn to understand their needs then clearly articulate their needs in a respectful and nonthreatening manner—this is called being assertive. In cases like these simply teaching communication skill will resolve the issues with anger.

Emotional Literacy:
Distinct from emotional intelligence, emotional literacy is learning the language that allows one to express and understand our own emotions and those of others. I agree with those who advocate for emotional intelligence/empathy in controlling chronic anger. However, to become emotionally intelligent, learning the language of emotions is needed. There are over 4000 words humans can use to express their emotional needs, however, I estimate that there are only a few hundred words commonly used to express our emotional needs. Anger is a secondary emotion and is always driven by some other emotion. It is paramount to learn how to identify and express our emotional needs in very specific language. For example there is a distinct difference between saying I feel tired and saying I feel worn out. Saying one feels tired may suggest to the hearer that the individual still has some energy left but saying I feel worn out clearly suggest that there is no energy left. This level of specificity helps individual to clearly articulate needs and reduces anger. Emotional literacy training is essential for these types of situations.
Some individuals possess narcissistic traits which are directly contributing to their anger. Those with narcissistic traits decree that everything must go their way or the offending party will have hell to pay. Anger management alone does not remove the chronic anger in cases like these. What is needed is education regarding the presence of the narcissistic traits and specific training to help the individual recognize, and be sensitive to what he or she needs as well as how to help others also get their needs met.
Hormonal Changes:
Hormonal changes have a direct effect on anger outbursts. However, this fact is not often mentioned by those who practice anger management. Hormonal changes in both men and women at different stages of life can contribute to irritability, frustration and anger. Therefore in some case it is recommended that individuals with chronic anger issues have a comprehensive physical examination to determine if the anger may have a biological or physiological cause.
New or Emerging Stress:
Anger outbursts can be a direct result of stress. Chronic stress tends to have a numbing effect on the body and mind. In fact, when under a tremendous amount of stress, emotions become numb in order for the individual to cope. This is a survival mechanism that allows the body to reallocate resources in an effort to minimize or try to eliminate the stressor. The individual can also become hyper-focused on their needs and become less empathic towards others needs. Anger in this case is a way to defend the self when the body is under a great deal of emotional stress. However anger itself can deepen isolation and keep the individual away from the resources they need to resolve the stress. Stress management is warranted in cases like these to assist in reducing anger and the development of more positive coping skills such as exercise, deep breathing, asking for help or prioritizing one’s schedule.

Poor Resiliency Skills:
Resiliency is related the ability to manage change. Being able to deal with change is an important life skill that is necessary to assist individuals in managing anger. When individuals have the mistaken and often unconscious belief that life must remain familiar and hence resist change, anger can be a constant companion. This chronic anger presents itself in individuals who have had unexpected or unwanted changes in their lives. Anger management classes alone will not resolve this type of anger presentation. Instead change management and resiliency skills are needed in order to address the anger issues in this type of situation.
Domestic Abusers:
Lastly, in cases of domestic violence where the abuser presents with anger and violence towards their intimate partners, it would be a mistake to assume that the abuser needs anger management. In fact, research suggests, that anger management classes can lead to greater levels of manipulation and domestic abuse. Domestic abusers need to be in batterer intervention programs to better assist them with addressing their violent tendencies.

The right treatment starts with the right diagnosis. With a myriad of individuals seeking anger management classes and treatment every year, the public needs to be informed of the treatment issues and options available. It’s time to realize that anger has many caused. Those causes must first be known and then be treated appropriately otherwise the anger that exists in our societies will continue unabated.
By Carlos Todd, PhD, LPC
Dr. Carlos Todd maintains a private coaching, training, consulting and counseling practice in Charlotte, North Carolina and specializes in anger management, domestic violence and conflict management. Learn more at carlostodd.com or masteringconflict.com

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8 Unconscious Beliefs that Hide Behind the Aggression that manifest itself as Domestic Violence

As a child, I was the unfortunate childhood witness to domestic violence. Those events shaped who I have become today, and as a mental health practitioner and a student of anger, conflict and domestic violence I see the world through different lenses. One set of lenses is that of the child who heard my mothers’ cries, and the second set of lenses as the professional who assist others in dealing life’s pain.  Having the knowledge, experience and battle scars of watching domestic violence occur, I can share with you, in my opinion, the voice of the abuser and what he feels and experiences as he takes the victim through the treacherous cycle of abuse.  My position is that in the mind of the abuser, there is unresolved insecurity, anxiety and vulnerability which drive the need for constant power and control in an effort to give the appearance and façade of superiority.   As the cycle begins, so does the inner-secrets that dictate the behavior. The inner feelings of the abuser think like this:


1. Fear & Weakness: Those close to me say and do things that make me feel naked emotionally. The truth is that because they are close to me, they present the greatest threat to exposing my weaknesses. I must keep them close enough to get my emotional and physical needs met, but far enough to avoid my feelings of vulnerability. I use aggression to feel less vulnerable.  I display strength to hide my weakness.

2: My Success/Your Success: I fear that my partner can be more successful or even more powerful than I am. In order to avoid the germination of this success, I will do all I can to block or even terminate any attempt at his/her success. I do this because my fragile self cannot handle the fact that he/she can have greater or equal success.. I will do what I can to keep him/her down so that I can never be exposed.

3. Isolation: I isolate you because I fear that someone will clue you in to my weakness, and will expose me. To maintain my façade of power, you must be controlled..

4. The ultimate reject is too much: The reason why I tell you “If I can’t have you no one can”, is because I am too weak emotionally to deal with the idea that someone I gave myself to, could reject me. The very idea of this rejection is too much to take; therefore, I will protect my feelings at all cost, even if it means hurting you

5. Giving Conditionally:  I give to you emotionally with conditions.  I give to you under the condition that you cannot reject anything that I give. To reject ANYTHING that I give is to reject me entirely. I will give to you what I think you need, but I will not let you take ANYTHING from me.

6. Overwhelming force: I respond with violence because I must use overwhelming force to hide the fact that I am really hurting and afraid. The extreme aggression is the only way I know how to feel safe. I must silence any emotional opposition in order to keep my world safe for me.  I will do this without thought or care of your emotions as it is paramount that I protect mine.

7. The world is Black and white: I see the world in black and white: the strong and the weak. There is no grey. For there to be grey in my world, then I must deal with uncertainty and unpredictability especially as it relates to dealing with those close to me. Uncertainty creates too much anxiety which I do my best to control through intimidation, emotional and physical control and manipulation. If you try to place grey in my world, I will reset the tone back to my comfort zone and do whatever I can to keep it there.

8. My World (It must be all about me): Despite the fact that I am very weak and vulnerable, I am also quite dangerous because the world revolves around me. Any attempt to shape MY WORLD into something other than I have created, is a perceived threat to my existence., and the only way I know to eliminate those threats, is to either take away the individuality of my partner by making him/her extensions of me, or worse, by eliminating his/her life.


This is the voice of the abuser; the abuser has past wounds and hurts that need time, intensity, and effort to address these issues.  Out of the pain of a wounded child became the existence of a professional healer who was given both a gift and a curse of the experience of domestic violence.  I have chosen to take my experience, knowledge and passion to help other heal from this heinous crime. The next time you encounter a situation where domestic violence is present, know that both victim and the accuser have internal conflict, issues and situations that must be addressed. The abuser must meet his demons in an effort to overcome them.


Dr. Carlos Todd

Anger & Conflict Expert

Childhood Survivor of DV



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Charlotte Counseling Practice focuses on anger, conflict, anxiety and depression

Sensing the need for a more focused approach to addressing anger, conflict, anxiety and depression Conflict Coaching & Consulting has developed practice programs that focuses on treatment of these problems

Charlotte, NC  Dr. Carlos Todd director and License Professional Counselor at Conflict Coaching & Consulting noted that the company has been in operation since 2006 and has provided a variety of mental health services but in the last few years has focused its programs on assisting clients in relieving  anger, conflict, anxiety and depression symptoms. This company focused its clinical services in the chosen subject areas because of the ever-increasing problem of anger and family conflict.

Dr. Todd, himself an expert in conflict management, shared that this company has taken a structured approach to treatment using a holistic treatment approach; thereby utilizing a variety of assessment tools, psychotherapy interventions, and collaboration with medical personnel re psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and primary care physicians. This integrated approach ensures the optimal health of clients and has helped the organization find success in treating men who struggle with anger, families in conflict and individuals who struggle with anxiety and depression.

Conflict Coaching is credentialed by the North Carolina Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and accepts insurances including Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Tricare, Mental Health Network and Ceridian. Many clients also seek further confidentiality and therefore will opt for out-of-pocket payments. To contact Dr. Todd or any member of his staff please call 704-804-0841 or visit www.masteringconflict.com


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Clinicians seeking a LPC Supervisor now have a new choice in Charlotte, North Carolina

Due to increasing demand for LPC Supervision Natasha Pemberton-Todd, LPC, LPCS has expanded her supervision practice to reach more aspiring clinicians

Charlotte, NC January 22, 2014: For almost 20 years Natasha Pemberton-Todd has been providing mental health services internationally and in a number of US states. In recent years she has decided to focus her practice not only on serving those with social and emotional problems but on helping new clinicians entering the mental health field to navigate the industry.

Mrs. Pemberton-Todd who owns the practice, Conflict Coaching & Consulting, Inc with her husband Dr. Carlos Todd stated, “Today’s mental health clinician needs to learn how to be a superior clinician but also the business of psychotherapy. They need to learn how to use their unique clinical skills to make an impact beyond the therapy couch. Clinical supervision therefore must be a perfect blend of learning clinical skills, professional development and the business of psychotherapy.”
Mrs. Pemberton-Todd is taking new supervisees for both individual and group supervision. Supervisees can be anywhere in North Carolina because sessions can be conducted via Skype as well as face to face. Mrs. Pemberton-Todd can be reached by either calling 704-804-0841 or visit www.masteringconflict.com

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Hospitals looking to anger management for disruptive doctors


The Washington Post reports a 2011 incident involving a surgeon who was conducting a difficult abdominal operation and asked for a specific tool. When a technician handed it to him, the surgeon saw that it was loaded incorrectly and angrily slammed it on the table, breaking the technician’s finger. The surgeon was promptly suspended for two weeks and told to undergo anger management sessions.


For most doctors, maintaining composure during an operation or a several-hours-long shift is just part of the job, and something they have no trouble handling. But some doctors – a minority, but an impactful minority – are prone to angry or disruptive outbursts on the job, either yelling at nurses, trainees or co-workers because a tool is missing or they aren’t moving fast enough. For countless years, these kinds of doctors have been largely ignored, with their behavior attributed to the stress of the job. But now, as hospitals increasingly impose zero-tolerance policies towards out-of-control doctors, anger management classes are becoming an attractive option.

The Washington Post reports a 2011 incident involving a surgeon who was conducting a difficult abdominal operation and asked for a specific tool. When a technician handed it to him, the surgeon saw that it was loaded incorrectly and angrily slammed it on the table, breaking the technician’s finger. The surgeon was promptly suspended for two weeks and told to undergo anger management sessions. Cases like these have forced hospitals to take more proactive measures in dealing with anger-prone doctors.

“Many hospitals and health-care systems are beginning to address [the problem of angry doctors] just to keep their accreditation,” Peter Angood, chief executive of the American College of Physician Executives, told the source.

“Hospitals can no longer afford to look the other way,” added California internist Alan Rosenstein.

Professionals in the medical field who have either been told by their hospital administrators to enroll in anger management, or simply want to address their issues voluntarily, should consider the online anger management classes at Conflict Coaching & Consulting. This online program guarantees total privacy and works completely around the attendee’s schedule.

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Anger management programs for professionals

In certain professions, it can sometimes pay to be aggressive. Law enforcement officials, for example, may rely in part on this quality to help them think fast in a difficult and potentially life-threatening situation. Lawyers, by comparison, can implement this tactic to deliver a particularly compelling closing statement or challenge allegations made by an opposing party. However, if you constantly resort to intimidation to achieve professional goals, you may be creating a toxic work environment for others.

But, what if your aggressive tactics aren’t necessarily deliberate? What if, instead, they are a result of an underlying anger management issue? It’s perfectly natural to get agitated every once in awhile, but if you find yourself constantly struggling to keep from lashing out at coworkers or damaging company property, it may be time to seek help.

First, it’s important to note that there is no shame in reaching out to an anger management consultant. No matter what your profession, you are still beholden to the same chemical and emotional reactions as anyone else. Anger is ingrained in all of us, as it is part of our fight-or-flight response to danger. However, this reaction is more exaggerated in some people than others – irrespective of their ethnicity, education level or income bracket.

At Conflict Coaching & Consulting, we understand how wide-ranging this issue is, so we offer a vast array of online anger management classes that are specifically tailored to the differing needs of our clientele. We also know that many professionals just don’t have the time to attend a weekly class, making online anger management courses the perfect way to develop the techniques you need to keep this emotion from overshadowing your intellect and skill on the job.

By Carlos Todd, PhD

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Five reasons why Anxiety is linked to Anger, Conflict and Bullying

For the purpose of this article anxiety is defined as the following: A constant and low grade feeling of being unsafe and always fearing pending non-existence either by death or just being totally invisible or irrelevant to the rest of the world.

1.    Anxiety can lead to a heightened state of suspicion of others which often results to unnecessary conflicts.
2.    Anxiety alters perceptions which in turn can create distorted realities that often lead to episodes of anger and conflict.
3.    Anxiety can lead to negative self talk and paranoia which in turn can lead to a constant need to defend self.
4.    Anxiety can create a need to control others which is fueled by a fear that others want or will take what we have.
5.    Anxiety can make it difficult for an individual to see their “goodness,” which often leads to a constant need to defend self.

Carlos Todd, PhD
Anger, Conflict and Bullying Expert

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Anger management tips for the holidays from www.masteringanger.com


  1. Manage your time well
  2. Set financial goals
  3. Have an open discussion with your family about where the holidays will be spent
  4. Be willing to compromise
  5. Be aware that long shopping trips can be exhausting and may add to irritability and arguments
  6. Don’t take yourself too seriously
  7. Designate a shopping day for the kids and one for the adults of the family
  8. Shop online
  9. Buy gift certificates–this will save you a lot of time
  10. Don’t forget to get a pet sitter well in advance of your trips

Happy Holidays!



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New Teen Anger Management Program

In response to a growing need we have published an new teen workbook. This workbook is part of a comprehensive teen program. Visit conflictcoaching.co to learn more about our program.

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In response to a growing need we have published an new teen workbook. This workbook is part of a comprehensive teen program. Visit conflictcoaching.co to learn more about our program.