• Oct 08, 2021 | Your Relationships

    Handling Conflict with Compassion

    My niece recently reached out to me to share that she was experiencing  misogyny in the workplace and asked if I had ever experienced prejudice as a woman and how I handled it?

    She’s 19.

    My immediate reaction, damn, if only I had been that self-aware at her age, what I could have avoided.., but I digress.

    I notice as we reintegrate in the world that many of us are finding ourselves confronting so many difficult conversations and conflict of all shapes, forms and varieties.

    From planning a wedding and who to invite;
    To ending and creating new friendships that feel more values-aligned given the current political climate;
    To making new business decisions and strategic investments given the new business environment;
    To looking at who you’re going to be in the face of climate change in your household and reducing your own carbon footprint
    To managing conflict in the workplace and learning to be with people of all colors, values and beliefs.

    These are uncomfortable conversations we’re having. And they could not be more necessary given the times we’re in, the collective healing we are experiencing, and the collective trauma we are continuing to face.It can be hard to lean in to conflict especially if you identify as highly sensitive, introverted or empathic.

    It can be hard to sense what’s your pain, feelings and emotions versus being able to differentiate what belongs to others.

    And it is work we must all continue to do.

    Some practices that are particularly helpful and ones I practice regularly:

    Firstly, a reminder that any conflict can be resolved inside of relationship. When you are willing to have an “us” conversation and look through the lens of what the relationship needs versus have a defended or positional conversation, where it more feels like you are sparring off against an opponent this is absolutely the first place to look. This works is all areas of life from marital disputes, to business relationships, to friendships, and everything in between. If you cannot get to a place energetically where you experience compassion and loving kindness for the other party, I invite you to take space and come back to the conversation when you are more grounded and connected with the essence of who the other party is, in addition to your own.

    Secondly, conflict ONLY gets handled in any relationship, when each party is willing to claim 100% responsibility. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has told my partner he’s wrong, criticized him and then repeatedly could not understand why he wasn’t able to see reality through my eyes and tell me “Catherine, you are absolutely right. It is completely my fault and I’m so sorry!” Know this, as you are willing to look through the lens of personal responsibility, it makes more space for the other party to be able to do the same. There’s ultimately no value in waiting for the other party to say I’m sorry first, when it’s ALWAYS your own happiness that’s at stake. I’m reminded of the saying, You get to be right or be happy. This is a way of life that I live, one I’ve worked hard to acquire and has been one of the hardest-won and greatest contributors to my happiness and peace of mind.

    Next, you must must must speak from your own personal experience. Say it with me, I feel (sad, angry, resentful, worthless, violated, alone, etc)… It doesn’t matter how egregious the other party’s actions were or continue to be, conflict resolution always gets handled from a willingness to speak from I. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you’re in a conflict with a partner or friend and you tell them what they did or said, that their hair starts to bristle on their back like a scared puppy? It’s because when we point the finger and start with You did… or You said…, it’s human nature to feel criticized or defended. It’s much less practiced to speak vulnerably and share your own thoughts, feelings and body sensations, but the results of these efforts in your relationships will be life changing. And it’s much simpler, then we make it. Next time you feel defended, triggered, upset or sense your heart closing, practice, “I feel….”

    These three practices have been the results of many years of my personal efforts in handling conflict better, with love and compassion, both for myself and for the other party.Back to my niece though, there is a fabulous conflict resolution technique that I love and was the method I shared to help her apply and practice these concepts above.

    It’s a well researched methodology and one I find simplifies the process and helps you get to the heart of the conflict sooner, and it’s the Nonviolent Communication model created by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg.

    Next time, you feel yourself starting to bristle in a relationship and feel willing to practice something different, I cannot recommend enough you practice one if not all of the methods I’ve shared in this blog today!

    I feel hopeful that we will continue to handle conflict better as we continue realizing how much more alike than we are different. And as we continue to see and embody how much more basic our fundamental human needs are to be heard, to be understood and to be accepted.

    If you enjoyed today’s post, comment below and let me know which practice you’re taking on this week?

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