Are You in Need of Highly Effective Conflict Resolution Skills?
We all are… :)
Too many relationship are suffering from conflict. It’s sad really because conflict is a result of unresolved issues from one's past, basically thought patterning & programming that gets acted out in all relationships but especially with the people you love most.
The conflict is almost always destructive to one degree or another.
We are all just messy humans trying our best. The problem's that no one formally teaches you how to manage your mind, no matter what your brain has downloaded from your past experiences. You and your partner, or other important relationships you cherish don’t need to fall victim patterns of thinking that were established when you were a child and you're not doomed to repeat those patterns, but you must understand and manage your mind to make the changes and adjustments that you would like to see.
Today I am suggesting conflict resolution skills that most therapists and coaches don’t typically discuss.
I know these skills can cut right to the chase and help resolve any conflict almost immediately. For sure they take practice, and it’s not necessarily easy to do, especially if you've been stuck in a nasty cycle of conflict, but it's totally possible.
Unfortunately you're probably like the majority of people who don’t know how to communicate without blame, frustration and defensiveness. Did you know that as a human being you have a primal instinct to be right? This comes from our need to survive. But it's likely not serving you to see your partner as a lion who's gonna eat you if you get something wrong. But that's what the brain tells you, "If I am wrong I am going to die, so I must be right.” Think back to the last time you had an argument with someone, your partner or otherwise. Did you feel the need to be right? Be honest, even just a little? C’est normal.
This need to be right at all costs often causes inner turmoil, a lack of peace, and loss of time, energy and love in relationships.
Last week I had some Australian friends over for a visit at the villa I’ve been living at in the French Riviera. I love the villa in Nice (even though I miss California), it has the most amazing view of the Cote d’Azur. Anyone who comes to visit loves it too. They seem to get inspired by the vastness of the blue sea by day and the twinkling stars and lights of the city by night.
I must have another France Retreat here at the villa, but that’s a story for another day.
My friend Sam, who's around my same age, loves a lot of the same music I loved growing up. One night after a dinner party we all became obsessed with YouTube, listening and watching a bunch of oldies but goodies. We both have older siblings so we had the advantage of knowing several different generations of music, including our parents' classics.
During the deepest part of the conversation, Sam said, “wait I have the song for you all.” Seconds later, “Imagine,” by John Lennon came pouring out in droves of tears through my laptop. I was touched. I haven’t really heard the lyrics to this song in years. I had my prejudices that it was over-played and I kinda dismissed it before. But I heard it for the first time as an adult, with brand new ears, and I mean I really heard it.
It’s a beautiful thing, when music makes you want to lie on the floor, look up at the sky and just listen.
The words are deliciously about peace in all forms. I thought about the years of my own experience, and my experiences specializing in couples therapy, and now helping couples through coaching, as well and how terribly sad it is that people fight, in small ways and in big. I felt sadness that countries dislike one another and start wars because of perceived differences. But I also felt a sense of peace in the lyrics because of the possibilities available, with simple, yet not necessarily easy shifts in thinking that can lead to great change. One person at a time.
Isn’t that what makes us all so interesting anyway, our differences?
The conflict in our homes, those of our closest relationships with romantic partners, family and friends even, can be devastating, not to mention the conflict globally between countries, and sadly the violence against the Earth. Why do we have this need for destruction of things, and even ourselves? Could it be the need to be right?
One of my psychotherapy mentors would say, “You cannot hate someone, unless you've loved them.”
How true and how sad. If you loved, but made them wrong, because of your need to be right, is this why you can't love? I want to help you find more peace in all of your relationships with people and the greater world. So give the following steps a try.
You don’t have to be the Dali Lama or Mother Teresa to communicate this way, but it will take some serious patience, deep breaths, knowing when to walk away from a heated conversation and lots of practice.
If you need help, let me know.
You can have this conversation and share this process with someone you know well. Or you can do all the work yourself, the other person doesn’t even need to know you are going through this process.
GIVE up the need to be right. When there is no defense, their is no need to be offensive.
So the next time you find yourself triggered and in defensive mode, instead of arguing and needing to be right try this instead.
Here are the steps:
- Ask the person opposite you to tell you why they are right. This is so powerful. Ask them to tell you what they are feeling, thinking, what they want you to know. Tell them, "I want to hear you out."
- Really put yourself in their shoes. Really see the situation from their perspective.
- Understand their story which is their thought model: Their circumstance, their thought, their feeling, their actions and their results. This will be obvious when they tell you their story. But you won't hear it or believe it, if you're already on the defense. So drop all defensiveness and get really curious. Listen.
- After you listen, distill what they said down to the facts. Facts are not thoughts, they are the circumstances you both can agree on. Some examples can be "you came home 2-hours later than you said you would," or "I said I would come to your work-party but I didn't show up without any advance notification."
- Try and agree on the facts (even if they are unaware that you're doing this process). The facts can be found in each of your stories about what's happened. Say the facts aloud, "It sounds like we're disagreeing because I'm making the facts mean (insert A, B & C), and you're making the facts mean (insert X, Y & Z)."
- Say aloud, "Neither of us is wrong, we are just having different sentences (thoughts) in our minds about what the facts mean, i.e. what the story means. You each get to have a sentence here. For example, "When you came home late, I made it mean that you don't respect my time." Maybe your partner will say something like, "I wasn't sure about the time we agreed on, but I could have sworn it was 8 pm and not 6 pm." You can gather what they thought about this from the story they tell. Again, if you are doing this process alone, they don't need to state their sentence, you can.
- Then you say the reason you are disagreeing is because "we are making the facts mean different things."
- Finally, focus only on solutions. Brainstorm solutions that make you feel like you have a game plan and give up the need to feel right or fight. You've probably had that experience when someone shows up late and you can argue for 3 hours about it, and bring up 20 other negative things from the past. This is never useful. It's also never useful to prove someone wrong that you want to have a loving relationship with. Remember that.
Go give it a try and let me know how it goes.
Here're some inspiring quotes from Byron Katie. What one will you choose to help you remember this process and choose peace over conflict and the need to be right ?
Love, love, love. Be the love you wish to see in the world. Start now.