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8 Simple Steps to Resolve Any Conflict Like a Zen Master

8 Simple Steps to Resolve Any Conflict Like a Zen Master

If you’re like most people, you dread conflict. Your ears burn and you start to sweat just thinking about it. It’s a combat zone, where somebody wins and somebody loses. Somebody’s right, and somebody’s wrong. Maybe you avoid conflict, fearing hurt feelings, bruised egos and lost tempers. Or do you go at it like a blood sport, so focused on winning that you take out anyone in your path?

But you may have seen a few people who are able to handle conflict differently. They stay cool without stonewalling, With their guidance, hidden problems come to light. Innovative solutions develop to resolve issues that festered for years. These Conflict Masters even manage to turn a conflict into a pleasurable experience.

How do they do it?

They use the following 7 simple steps, and so can you.

1. Assume that others aren’t hell-bent on destroying all you hold dear.

Whenever you find yourself in a conflict, remind yourself that a logical reason must be driving the other person.

All human beings are trying to do one thing: meet their inborn needs. We must meet our needs to survive, and we will do anything to get these needs met, even violate our morals or cause harm. (Explains why people can do incredibly dumb or destructive things.)

The intent behind every action, then, is a positive: to get their needs met. It’s the exact thing you are trying to do, so how can you be upset about that?

This is not to say that what they are doing is right.  By starting with the assumption of positive intent, though, you give yourself a place of commonality and decency to start from, no matter how bad things seem.

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2. Respectfully, shut your pie hole

Most of us spend our time in conflict trying to prove why we are right and trying to anticipate what the other person will say so we can refute it. This means we rarely listen, therefore we rarely understand what is really going on. So we rarely find long-term, empowering solutions.

We rehash the same conflicts over and over because they never get down to the core issue.

Save countless hours and reduce your stress by investing the time to seek understanding first.

3. Bust out your Sherlock hat.

Imagine that you are a detective.

What’s it like to be in their shoes? How has this issue affected their life? What makes things better or worse? What do they think started the problem? How would they want it resolved? How might their life improve if you could see things from their perspective?

Engage your thoughtful curiosity with one goal: to understand the other person’s world.

4. Get Zen-like.

It took me a while to understand what people meant by “your Center”, but I get it now. Your Center is a spot about two inches above your belly button. It is a source of great power, both physically and psychically.

When you listen from your head, your brain starts commenting and analyzing the correctness of the information. You don’t fully listen. When you listen from your heart, your emotions can get triggered, making you defensive so that you can’t fully understand the other person. And you don’t fully listen.

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But when you listen from your Center, it allows you to simply absorb information without taking it personally, so you can fully listen.

Imagine that you are literally taking in the sound through your Center into your stomach so that you can digest them before you respond.

It’s an entirely new experience.

5. Like a good math student, go back and check your work.

Check to see if you understand them correctly, and use their words.

If they say, “I’m pissed that you ate all the donuts and left nothing for anyone else like you always do,” don’t tell them, “It sounds like you’re mad.”

No, “pissed” and “mad” aren’t the same thing.

Say, “So what I think I understand now is that you are pissed that I ate the donuts, and you feel that I always do things like that.” Then take that into your Center again. Don’t judge it; just absorb it. Something strange just might happen. You might begin to accept that this is how they feel, whether it’s right or not. It’s hard to fight against other people’s feelings or perceptions of the world.

What are you going to say? “You shouldn’t feel that way.” Who are you to tell me how I should feel about anything?

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All that’s left to say is, “Ok, I understand that’s how you feel. If you’re open to it, I could share with you how I experienced this.”

6. Invite them to walk in your shoes (or stilettos).

Don’t try to tell them why you are justified — you are justified in feeling whatever you feel. That is not something anyone needs to defend. Instead, simply explain what you have experienced. You want to offer them the opportunity to see your world too. Use descriptive “I” statements, not accusatory “you” statements.

To continue the donut example, you could say, “I hear that you’re pissed I ate all the donuts. After working for eight hours and not eating, I ate all three of them without even thinking. I didn’t do it with malicious intent. It hurts to hear that you think I’m selfish. Is that what you really think of me?”

Isn’t that much better than, “Well, you didn’t make me anything to eat, and I was starving, so, yeah, I ate them. If you had thought of me for a change, I wouldn’t have eaten your three precious donuts.”

7. VOMP it out

VOMP is an acronym for a formula to help deal productively with conflict.

  • Voice your concerns/experience: “I ate all three donuts after working without eating anything else.”
  • Own your responsibility in the issue: “I didn’t clean up or leave any donuts for you.”
  • eMpathize with the other person: “I understand that you were looking forward to one of those donuts, and it made you feel like I don’t think about you.”
  • Plan for what will change in the future: “I want to find ways to make sure you know how much I love and appreciate you. Even if I eat everything in the house, I want you to know I think of you, would do anything for you, and that I am grateful for all you do for me. What could I do differently to make that real for you?”  Then negotiate a specific, actionable plan that will work for both parties.

8. Remember you aren’t Chicken Little and the sky is not falling

I want the lights on, and you want the lights off. If we both really want it our way, a conflict will arise.

What does that mean? Does it mean we hate each other, that we have a bad relationship, that you have commitment issues, that I am selfish, that secretly everyone’s been wanting the lights off my entire life and that’s why previous relationships haven’t worked out?

No, it means we want different things at the same time. That’s all conflict means.

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Be very careful not to make disempowering and destructive meanings that will lead to more pain and create more conflict later.

Why The Zen Master Smiles Through The Storm

You need not fear the storm. It is what brings the rainbow.

For so long, you have been confused, thinking conflict is to be feared, a sign that something has gone wrong. The Master smiles knowing that here lies the remedy to the illness.

Conflict is a cleansing, allowing the misunderstandings and hurt to come to light. So now you can smile too, knowing that conflict offers an opportunity for healing to unfold. Don’t worry that you may not do all these steps right. You will have many chances to practice. Like any practice, you will see the transformation little by little until one day you will smile.

What is a conflict you have been avoiding? Will your life get any better by letting it fester? How good will it feel to clean out the wound? Your ascension to mastery starts with one conversation.

Try these words: “Do you have some time to talk?”

Featured photo credit: zenonline via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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