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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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