Conflict Resolution, Part 1

Ever have an argument and wonder how it spun so far out of control?
In this article, I offer some simple steps to assist in moving from the suffering we experience in conflict to the peace and gratitude of understanding and compassion.  These guidelines apply to all communication, whether your companion is a business partner or friend. Take some relaxed time with them to come to agreement as to how you can best apply these guidelines.

Take A "Time Out "

Agree on a time out signal, You may choose a signal unique to you, while your partner may choose one unique to them. This signal can be a peace sign or the time out sign used in sports.
Use whatever signal is easiest for you to remember. One that has no charge for either of you.

As soon as you recognize that you are feeling tense, defensive, or hurt, show the "time out" signal.
During this time out, allow yourself to recognize how your upset was not caused by them, but your reaction to them. This is a very important step. No one is the cause of our emotional and mental suffering, but us. Others may say and do things that trigger our reaction, but how we react is totally of our choosing.

Identify The "Software"

As you sit for this time out, become aware of the tension in your body and the emotions you're experiencing. Identifying just what you are experiencing physically and emotionally, is a significant step in the process of identifying that your reaction stems from an old belief you have likely carried much of your life. I call these old beliefs "software", because they are "programming" that is not part of our "hard drive" or who we really are

Notice the location of the tension in your body. This is important because we hold the tension from our "software' in specific places in our body  (termed "cellular memory").
Sensing this tension, we have a pointer to just which program we are "running".

Although there are myriad variations on emotions, they boil down to 4 basic emotions, making it much easier to identify what we are feeling. These 4 are sad, mad, glad, and scared. By remembering these, we can have a basic navigation of this inner watery realm of emotion.
We often confuse emotions with action words. We say things like " I feel betrayed" or "I feel abandoned". Betrayal and abandonment are actions, not feelings. These terms imply that we have been victimized. Next week I'll elaborate on communicating emotions.
When you have some clarity on your physical sensations and emotions you have taken a significant step away from blame and victim-hood to Self awareness and freedom.

The Talking Stick

Have an object available that will act as the talking stick. It can be anything; a pen, a comb, a key; any item within reach. Again, nothing that has a charge for either of you. When you return to talk, determine who is to talk first. Each person talks as long as they like while holding the "talking stick" as a reminder that they have the "floor".

Even though you have taken time apart, you may feel so heated about an issue that you find it difficult to listen while the other person speaks. When this is the case, consider the following.
When I talk to my wife about an issue I have with her, she may have an immediate emotional reaction, resulting in her focusing more on her reaction than being present with me. In this case, it actually works to my advantage to put my issue aside for the moment and listen to her, allowing her to express whatever she needs. Remember, you want your partner present with you and if s(he)'s clouded by his/her reaction, how present are they really gonna be for you?

Added benefits of this are that when you return to your issue, s(he) will be more present with you and  you may find that the intensity you felt earlier has lessened and been replaced with peace and gratitude. Why? I submit that it's because you have given them what you set out to get from them in the first place. You applied the Golden Rule.

"Be the example you want to see in the world" ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Creating a bridge

I think of the Golden Rule as a"bridge"to others. Become aware of what you want from others and as long as you offer it, you'll experience it.
All the reasons that we enter relationship (ie getting certain needs met, being understood, being accepted, receiving compassion, friendship,), can be boiled down to one one easy to remember reflection; "Have I built a bridge to this person"? Have I walked in their "shoes"? Do I have compassion for them?   Have I applied the Golden Rule?" Give to others what you want to receive from them.

This bridge is available to us in every relationship and is a tool that deepens our ability  to understand, have empathy, and compassion for others. The more we create bridges, the less conflict we experience. Eventually, creating bridges  becomes our natural approach to relationship.

Next week, I'll continue the theme of conflict resolution. I'll also share with you an amazing tool that tanscends the limitations of talking about issues. A tool to get immediately to the heart of the matter, to express it and quickly return to Love.

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