Most of my life I've been a conflict-avoider, sweeping potential disagreements under the proverbial rug. But these days I seem to face contentions head-on, boxing gloves poised and ready. This is good, for the most part--running from conflict rarely solves anything. However, now that I'm not afraid to take on the hard conversations and can bring up the minors before they become majors, I realize I could use some fighting skills. It seems I'm doing it all wrong -- taking things personally, bringing up past issues that have nothing to do with the present, throwing in hurtful digs, albeit slight and 'hidden' (but not really). I shut down after I speak my peace and am closed-minded and judgmental when the other person expresses their side of things, wounding my dissentient and getting my own feelings hurt in the process.
So I write this article for me. And for any of you who struggle when it comes to conflict resolve.
We've developed bad habits
Of course, we don't make fighting a goal. In a perfect world, we'd tune into our emotions well before conflict arises and use these wise old friends to guide us as we manage our behavior, thwarting tensions before they erupt into battles. But then again, we're human, imperfect and immature and insensitive at times, so it's highly likely disagreements will evolve into fights. Most of us have picked up some poor habits, as early as childhood, and haven't learned there is a better way.
But before we look into acquiring some new fighting skills, let's determine first if your conflict management needs some work. Here are some things you don't want to choose to do when troubles arise:
Fail to listen to the other person's point of view with an open mind
Instead of seeking to find common ground, fight for your own way or ideas
Do most of the talking in disagreements
Feel extremely uncomfortable when conflict arises
Don't use tact when voicing your concerns, rather, you demean the other person and/or their ideas and/or use crass language to prove your point
Say things like "always", "never", and "everyone thinks this way..." (as if you know how everyone else in the world thinks or does things)
Bring up the past to prove your point of "Here we go again..."
Use put downs and demeaning words, saying things you know you'll regret later
View the other person as an adversary or foe because they don't agree with you
Think things like, "If only they would change, this could be resolved."
Quit and run away before the conflict is resolved
Use dishonesty to put an end to the conflict rather than being authentic with your feelings
View yourself as more superior, smarter, or 'a better person' because of how the other person is feeling/acting
Which of these best describes your boxing tactics?
It starts with Self-Awareness
Whether you choose one or all of the above when conflict hits, learning a new way of fighting can take some work. As with any behavior, we can make shifts in a new direction, but it's not always easy. But devoting effort to the development of conflict resolve skills will serve us well when the next battle comes along.
“Bravery is the choice to show up and listen to another person, be it a loved one or perceived foe, even when it is uncomfortable, painful, or the last thing you want to do.” ― Alaric Hutchinson
So where do we bad fighters start?
First of all, as with most things -- becoming self-aware is a good initial step. Take note of the poor habits you use when fighting, write them down, and take a hard look at them. Do they serve you well or do they usually escalate the conflict, or cause further avoidance? How do you feel when you act that way? How does it make the other person feel when you act that way? Most likely the things you're writing are not the most positive. It's OK. Recognizing the need to change often comes from acknowledging the hurt we are causing ourselves and others.
Managing our behavior
Now that you're ready to make some shifts, simply acknowledging bad behaviors is not enough. And just erasing them won't help either. As with the breaking of any old habit, it's beneficial to have a new toolkit at your disposal full of actions to replace ineffective behaviors. Here are a few to try:
Separate the person from the problem. Don't let yourself go down the path of "this person is bad, wrong, selfish, etc." because they have a differing opinion. Fight the desire to label them and instead, focus on the disagreement at hand.
Lay down preconceived ideas. It's easy to think you already have everything figured out before the conflict even begins. Be present and ask clarifying questions where needed so you're sure you understand their viewpoint, not your interpretation of their viewpoint.
Take a deep breath and slow down. An overload of feelings can cause an amygdala hijack. The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes our emotions. Because the emotional processing in our brain happens much more quickly than the rational side, if the amygdala perceives the situation is at a "fight or flight" level of danger, it will trigger a response that shuts down the rational side of our brains, causing us to say and do things we'll regret later. Trust me, this is something to avoid.
Listen to understand. Stop thinking about what you're going to say next and tune in to what they're saying, and not saying. Watch for body language (are they agitated, are they scared, etc.) and attempt to hear what they need/want in this situation, not just what is coming out of their mouth.
Before speaking, ask yourself, "Will this help or hurt the situation?" Sounds simple, but it's very effective! Choose your words carefully and be sure not to throw out insults or put-downs in the heat of the moment.
Remind yourself that their way may be a better way. Be curious. Have an open mind and think of the conversation as a way to brainstorm creative new ideas rather than taking offense because they don't agree with you.
“When we aren't curious in conversations we judge, tell, blame and even shame, often without even knowing it, which leads to conflict." -- Kristen Siggins
Don't attach judgments about their character because of their opinions. Again, separate out the issue from the person and fight the urge to jump to conclusions about their moral integrity just because you don't like what they're saying.
Be aware that the other person is experiencing his/her own set of emotions. There may be drivers going on that you're not aware of -- past hurts, disappointments, or struggles that the other person is dealing with. Offer some grace, in the moment, as you seek to understand the why behindhumi their actions or words.
Find a way to say something valuing about the other person. Even if you don't agree with them, making the other person feel valued for who they are, in the heat of an argument, can do wonders to diffusing anger and frustration levels. A great sentence starter is, "You know what I like about you?" then fill in the rest with a sincere, kind word.
"A soft answer turns away wrath." -- ancient proverb
Remember that the goal here is coming to a solution that works for both parties, not getting your own way. This may mean you have to reach a compromise where both of you give up a little to arrive at a peaceful outcome.
I know, easier said than done. If this list seems daunting, pick just one goal and focus on it for the next few weeks. Talk to a coach or counselor about the areas you struggle most with and seek an outside opinion on how you could begin to make some shifts. Then get out there and practice.
For those of you (us) who have done it all wrong, going back to that person and offering a sincere, "I'm sorry" can do wonders to soften pain of the blows you delivered. It takes humility and courage to admit our errors and ask forgiveness of the other person. They may reject you, scoff at you, or even attempt to continue the fight -- but these three magical words can do as much for your own angry heart as it can the other person.
Unless you live on an uninhabited, deserted island, where you have no contact with others, there will be conflicts on the road ahead. Coming prepared with healthy, helpful tactics will enable both of you to stay standing at the end of each round. Even better, as you work on your own conflict management skills, you may come to realize that it was never a fight at all, but a passionate interaction between two unique and worthy individuals, on the same team, working toward the same goal, each offering the gift of learning something new.
"We meet aliens every day who have something to give us. They come in the form of people with different opinions." -- William Shatner
This article was written by Amy Sargent.
Click HERE to Learn more about her work.
Principle 1: Master the courage to question reality.
No plan survives its collision with reality, and reality has a habit of shifting, at work and at home. Markets and economies change, requiring shifts in strategy. People change and forget to tell each other – colleagues, customers, spouses, friends. We are all changing all the time.
Not only do we neglect to share this with others, we are skilled at masking it even to ourselves.
Principle 2: Come out from behind yourself into the conversation and make it real.
While many fear “real”, it is the unreal conversations that should scare us to death. Unreal conversations are expensive, for the individual and the organization. No one has to change, but everyone has to have the conversation. When the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation is over. You will accomplish your goals in large part by making every conversation you have as real as possible.
Principle 3: Be here, prepared to be nowhere else.
Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be. Participate as if it matters. It does.
Principle 4: Tackle your toughest challenge today.
Burnout doesn’t occur because we’re solving problems, it occurs because we’ve been trying to solve the same problem over and over. The problem named is the problem solved. Identify and then confront the real obstacles in your path. Stay current with the people important to your success and happiness. Travel light, agenda-free.
Principle 5: Obey your instincts.
Don’t just trust your instincts – obey them. Your radar screen works perfectly. It’s the operator who is in question. An intelligence agent is sending you messages every day, all day.
Tune in. Pay attention. Share these thoughts with others. What we label as illusion is the scent of something real coming close.
Principle 6: Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
For a leader, there is no trivial comment. Something you don’t remember saying may have had a devastating impact on someone who looked to you for guidance and approval. The conversation is not about the relationship; the conversation is the relationship. Learning to deliver the message without the load allows you to speak with clarity, conviction, and compassion.
Principle 7: Let silence do the heavy lifting.
When there is simply a whole lot of talking going on, conversations can be so empty of meaning they crackle. Memorable conversations include breathing space. Slow down the conversation, so that insight can occur in the space between words and you can discover what the conversation really wants and needs to be about.
This article was written by Rev. Marc Baisden, MACP, MIN
Click HERE to Learn more about Marc Baisden.
Passion frightens people. We are told to find our passion and pursue it, and simultaneously censured for being too passionate. The world sets out to tame and calm us while telling us to live our passion fully. I unfortunately learned over the years to hide my passion in most situations. Full out laughter might result in someone telling me I was being too loud or that people were looking at me. Crying meant I was just an over-emotional female. Spreading my arms in the night wind inevitably resulted in someone asking me what I was “on” since clearly that kind of passion requires drugs. A lover once told me while I was wrapped in his arms that I was getting carried away, which of course I thought was the point.
And then there is work, where I was told over and over “we can tell you are passionate” in a disapproving tone. This happened everywhere from fund-raising meetings, where one needs a bit of passion, to academic councils where I was bringing new innovative programs for approval. Of course this took place in an academic setting where we ask faculty to share their passion with students, and to fill students with passion for a discipline and lifelong learning.
Over and over again we are instructed to live our passion and then told to tone it down. What if we live our passion and fall completely in love, only to have our hearts broken? What if we find a career we are passionate about and then find after a few years that we have fallen out of love and need a new direction? What if we are passionate about our family and fight to protect them? Or what if we are passionate about an issue, form a non-profit and change the world? A life of passion is dangerous.
This mixed message has hounded and haunted me. Am I having too much fun, too much in love with being alive, or perhaps just too much in love? Why should I dispassionately discuss my passion? Who is allowed to be passionate? Or maybe the question is who is courageous enough to be passionate.
Clearly people on the TED stage are passionate, as are commencement speakers, singers, performers and some fund-raisers. I have loved my passionate teachers and students, as well as the one time I had a fearlessly passionate lover. When I feel truly alive passion fills me, overflowing and dripping from my heart like thick sweet honey. Finding and feeling passion is not the issue, the challenge is having the courage to live it, sharing my honey like wine with a parched world.
I have spent years learning to moderate my voice in meetings, to sound dispassionate about topics that actually demand passion. I have learned to walk calmly and with strength, never displaying joy in my step. It is only when I am alone or with close friends that I let my love of life show on my face and in my demeanor. Until recently.
Something cut through the boundaries and borders of control that I have built over the years, and much like candy dancing free from the restraints of a piñata, my passion has broken free. I do not know where the courage came from to truly show up. Perhaps Kris Kristofferson was right when he wrote “freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose.” And perhaps finding freedom has made show off my passion. Perhaps it was the tango lessons that helped me shift my calm walk to a tango strut. Maybe I finally realized that my ability to laugh is a gift that positively changes the energy in a room. Or perhaps I just know that my meaning and purpose in life comes from being courageous enough to let my passion flow.
This article was written by Elisa Robyn
Click HERE to Learn more about her work.
It takes courage to show up for prosperity.
What if you just showed up for yourself today? What if all it took to build the prosperity you crave was to be profoundly present in your own life, in your own body, in your own story? Do you have the courage to live with this depth of belief and authenticity, to be alive in the moment regardless of the risks?
It is safer to live in the past, ruminating, remembering, re-writing, and grieving, than it is to live in the present. The past is familiar territory; we know what will hurt and what we can rejoice in. We made that great play, or we missed the mark. We chose love or career or adventure, for good or bad, and we know how the story goes. There is safety in this predictability, even if it is painful.
It is easier to worry about the future, or to spin great stories in which we play the starring role, than it is to begin the work before us. Our dreams are safe, requiring no investment of energy or time. And we can blame our unfulfilled dreams on some vague past event that we label as a pivotal moment, spreading the blame across space and time and people. We can create amazing futures, but only from the present. We can learn from our past, but only when we are alive now. It is only in this moment that sensuality and love exist. It is only in the now that we can experience and build and create and grow. We are truly alive only in real-time, in the gift of this moment.
And when we have the courage to incarnate fully in the moment we have the power to create a prosperous reality. When we face our fears of being wonderful beings of light, when we are willing to release the wounds of the past, we will without effort find we have embraced our deepest truth and power. This is the home of love and manifestation, and the foundation for prosperity.
This article was written by Elisa Robyn
Click HERE to Learn more about her work.