Is conflict something you do anything to avoid, or do you embrace conflict as a wonderful opportunity to learn? Have you found it hard to stay open in the face of conflict? Do you get into fights that turn ugly as the conflict escalates? Learn how to avoid fighting in conflict situations and what needs to happen to resolve conflict.
In any interaction with another person, there are always two levels of communication. These levels concern intent and content.
Intent refers to whether our deepest desire, in this moment, is to control or to love, to avoid or to learn.
The content is the issue we may be discussing – time, money, tasks, communication, sexuality, parenting, relationships with family and friends, food, health, and so on. The content is the topic of discussion while the intent is the context, or container, within which we are interacting.
Discussions over issues easily disintegrate into arguments when one or both people are choosing the intention to control. Issues cannot reach resolution unless both people, or all concerned, have an intention to learn. In fact, even more issues get created when one or more people involved in the discussion are choosing controlling rather than learning, because now the controlling behavior itself – anger, judgment, blame, defensiveness, resistance, and so on – becomes an issue.
We have no control over another’s intent and attempts to get another to open are generally met with resistance. Trying to get another to open, even with niceness or kindness, is just another form of control. Most people who want to control also do not want to be controlled and will go into resistance if they feel someone trying to control them, even if it is just to get them to open up.
The key to not creating more issues when you feel you are open to learning and the other person is not, is to accept your powerlessness over another’s intent. If you completely accept that there is nothing you can do to get another person to listen to you, understand you, agree with you, accept you, or do what you want, then you will not pursue the discussion. You will not continue to hit your head against a wall when you have no hope of the wall coming down. When you accept that you are helpless to change another’s intent, you will stop trying to do so.
We stay in dysfunctional discussions and arguments when we do not accept the truth – that we have no control over getting another to open, agree, understand, accept, and so on. We stay in these difficult interactions because we deny our powerlessness over others. We convince ourselves that if we just say the right things, in just the right way, the other person will finally hear us and care about what we feel or want. Because of this illusion, we can exhaust ourselves in fruitless arguments that leave us even more frustrated and lonely than before we began.
It is very important to remember that, while we have no control over another’s intent, we have total control over our own intent. When we are willing to let go of our focus on the content, and instead become aware of our own and the others’ intent, then we are in a position to choose the loving action for ourselves. It is far more loving to us and to others to disengage from combative discussions until both people are open, than to argue, lecture, convince, judge, plead, cry, blame or criticize in an attempt to change another person.
However, walking away can also be a form of control if the intent of walking away is to punish the other person. The energy you will have if you walk away in anger and blame is entirely different than the energy of disengaging and walking away because it is the loving thing to do for yourself and for the other or others. When you are walking away as a loving adult, you can simply say, “Let’s talk about this later, when we are both open.”
Often, in my workshops and intensives, when I make the statement that it is more loving to walk away from a combative discussion than continue to argue, someone invariably says, “When I walk away, my partner often says, ‘You always run away rather than stay and resolve things.’ What do I do then?”
If someone blames you for peacefully disengaging, then the other person is still trying you control you. He or she hopes to hook you in with the attack. The best thing to do is not respond at all. Anything you say will be a defense or explanation and you will be right back into the fray. It is very important to stay present as a loving adult so that you don’t get hooked back into the argument.
A good time to reenter the discussion is after each of you has done your own Inner Bonding work and are open to learning with each other. You will be surprised how easily conflicts get resolved when both people are open to learning.
Remembering to tune into the intent rather than getting stuck in the content when one or both are not open to learning, will keep conflicts from escalating into fights.
A participant in one of my webinars asked: “Is there any way to resolve conflict if you have two ‘escalating’ personalities trying to solve a problem? In other words, how do you resolve conflict between two very strong willed, always-right personalities, who tend to escalate with every attempt at solving conflict?”
There is a hard and fast rule about resolving conflict that most people find hard to remember: You cannot resolve conflict unless both people are open to learning.
As long as one or both people are trying to be right, win, or at least not lose, no new learning can take place. Conflict resolves when new learning occurs due to both people being open to learning about themselves and each other.
It’s actually not hard to stop conflicts from escalating; the challenge is remembering to do it. This is hard to remember because, in conflict, often the fight or flight mechanism is activated. If both people or all involved tend to fight rather than flee, they will generally go on automatic pilot to win.
When the stress response – the fight or flight mechanism – is activated, blood leaves the brain and goes into the arms and legs to enhance the ability to fight or flee You stop thinking well when your intention is to control, avoid, and protect against pain, and your focus is on winning the fight. You are likely to say and do things that you would not ordinarily say or do – which, of course, escalates the fight.
What you need to remember to do is to disengage the moment the fight starts to escalate. If you wait too long, you will be in the throes of the stress response. Once your left amygdala – the lower survival part of the brain that activates fight or flight – takes over, it is VERY hard to stop. You both are like runaway trains, trying everything you can to win or not lose. That’s when things can get very ugly.
If you disengage the moment the fight starts to escalate, then you can cool off, get your brain back online, and do an Inner Bonding process to see what got triggered in you. You can move into compassion for yourself, make sure you are not taking the other person’s words and behavior personally, allow your sadness, loneliness, heartache and helplessness over the other person’s behavior to move through you, and then address what is really going on with you. Why do you need to win? What are you trying to control? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to avoid? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself during your Inner Bonding process.
Once you understand your part of the conflict and you feel open hearted and open to learning, you can approach the other person to see if he or she is also ready to learn. If not, then wait. If he or she is open, then the two of you can each share what you’ve learned in your Inner Bonding process and explore what needs to happen for each of you to feel resolved. This is a wonderful, intimate process that can happen only when both people are open to learning.
If the other person does not open to learning, then you need to let go of trying to resolve the issue between you. You can then do an Inner Bonding process to understand what is in your highest good, given that the other person is not available to resolve the issue. In order to do this, you need to completely accept that you are helpless over getting the other person to open, which is a big challenge for many people.
Even though resolving the issue for yourself is not always ideal, it is far better than the ugliness that often occurs when two people escalate a conflict.
One of the challenges in conflict is being able to be honest with ourselves with our intent. Our wounded self doesn’t want us to know when our intent is to control.
The heart of being in an intent to learn in conflict is to be willing to learn about our wounded self without judgment. It’s when we are open to learning about our intent to control that we begin to have the consciousness we need to heal our wounded self and lovingly resolve conflict.
The very word conflict may bring up negative images such as fighting, withdrawal, resistance or giving yourself up – all forms of control – and negative feelings such as fear, anxiety, hurt, anger, loneliness and helplessness. Yet relationship conflict offers us the most profound opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. It is within conflict that we are most challenged to decide who we want be – open or closed, learning or controlling.
What do you generally do when someone you are involved with does something you don’t like?
- Do you get angry and blaming, hoping to get them to see what they are doing wrong and change?
- Do you get parental and judgmental, hoping this will bring about change?
- Do you lecture and complain, hoping this will cause get them to change?
- Do you threaten them in some way – with financial, emotional or physical withdrawal, with violence or other forms of harm, or with exposure?
- Do you get cold and withdrawn, hoping the person will feel punished and come to you to find out what he or she did wrong?
- Do you ignore the situation, swallowing your feelings, trying to keep the peace?
- Do you keep quiet about your upset and take it out on the person in passive-aggressive ways, doing covert things that you know that person doesn’t like?
- Do you run to others, feeling like a victim and complaining about the other person?
- Do you get depressed, tired or sick, hoping to get the other person to feel sorry for you?
Most people do some version of one or more of the above, yet none of these choices leads to learning and resolution. All these responses contribute to the erosion of the relationship and destroy any chance of a safe container in which to resolve conflict. All these responses come from the wounded self’s intention to control.
What if, instead of seeing conflict as something to avoid or as a win-lose situation, you decide to welcome it as an incredible opportunity to learn, grow and evolve your soul in love and joy? What would you then choose to do differently?
The first thing you could do is ask yourself some questions with a deep intent to learn, such as:
- Why am I feeling upset about this situation?
- What is getting triggered in me that’s upsetting me?
- What am I telling myself about this situation or about the other person that is causing me to feel upset?
- Am I taking the other’s behavior personally and thinking it is about me rather than about him or her?
- Are my control issues getting activated – wanting to control and not be controlled?
In other words, instead of seeing yourself as a victim of another’s behavior, you would move into an Inner Bonding process, learning about your own feelings and thoughts rather than just reacting to the other person.
Once you fully understand your own feelings, you would then go to your Guidance for the loving action. Loving actions might include:
- Simply asking your partner or another person to change and see if he or she is willing to do so.
- Moving beyond the conflict by accepting the other’s behavior and not taking it personally.
- Approaching your partner, child, parent, friend, or coworker with a sincere intent to learn about and understand his or her behavior, rather than trying to get them to change. Understanding the other person from his or her point of view may help you to not take their behavior personally.
- Letting the other person know that the situation is upsetting to you and asking for an open arena in which to learn with each other and resolve the conflict.
- If the other person is unavailable for learning and resolution, deciding how to fully take care of yourself in the face of this situation – what to say to them and do for yourself next time this situation arises.
Then, of course, you would need to follow through with Step 5 of Inner Bonding, which is taking the loving action.
Imagine how wonderful you would feel and how safe your inner child would feel if you practiced Inner Bonding in the face of conflict! You would be able to stay focused on the content of the conflict rather than destroying the safe space with the intention to control.
Of course, learning to stay connected as a loving adult in the face of conflict takes practice.
Allison asked me the following question:
“I practice Inner Bonding when I feel I need it. I basically feel connected and when something is going on I sit down to do it. My question is, in the heat of the moment I feel wounded and find it hard to communicate effectively. When I take care of it later, I get grounded and feel ok. Can you please share advice on how to connect to my loving adult self in the split second of active conflict?”
Staying connected as a loving adult in the face of conflict is a challenge for most people. The more you practice Inner Bonding, the more you develop your loving adult in your higher brain, and the easier time you have staying open to learning in conflict.
As you develop your loving adult, you will be become aware that sometimes it best to resolve conflict without even talking about the problems.
In the last few decades, partners, friends, and coworkers have spent countless hours trying to “work out problems.” Yet over and over again they often come up against a major roadblock: they just don’t see things the same way. No matter how long they talk and how hard they try, neither ends up feeling really heard and understood.
While in committed relationships, there are some couples that just naturally see things the same way, many people have a really hard time seeing things through the other person’s eyes. What often happens when they “communicate” is that each person tries to get the other person to see things his or her way. Instead of solving the problem, each is trying to have control over how the other person sees things. This often leads to more conflict and frustration.
While I am not suggesting that couples stop communicating over problems and issues, I am offering an additional way of resolving conflict, which taking loving action on your own behalf.
This form of conflict resolution is about action rather than talk. There are some loving actions you can take that may make a world of difference in your relationship.
1. You can choose to be compassionate toward yourself and your partner rather than judging yourself or your partner.
2. You can choose to practice self-discipline in terms of saying nothing rather than behaving in an inflammatory way toward your partner. Practice zipping up your mouth! Practice letting go of having to be right!
3. You can choose to accept that you have no control over your partner’s feelings and behavior, but that you have total control over your own thoughts and actions. You can choose to take loving care of yourself in the face of the other person’s choices.
It is much easier to let go of trying to control your partner or others when you move into acceptance regarding who the other person is. Trying to change another is a total waste of energy. Taking loving care of yourself when talking gets you nowhere moves you into personal power.
You may find yourself wanting to talk about problems when you see yourself as a victim of others’ choices. However, when you accept others for who they are and accept your lack of control over them, you can then see your way clear toward taking loving action on your own behalf. Asking the question, “What is the loving action toward myself right now?” will open the door to creative ways of taking loving care of yourself.
Loving actions are actions that support your own highest good without harming others. For example, if you are tired of often being frustrated and rushed because your partner is generally late leaving for an event or for the airport, you might decide to take your own car each time your partner is not ready on time. While your partner might not like your choice, your action is not harmful to him or her. It is an action that stops the power struggle and takes care of yourself.
As you practice Inner Bonding and focus on what is loving to you, you will discover many loving actions in the face of conflict. Letting go of trying to control your partner and others and taking loving action for yourself are the keys to conflict resolution without always having to ‘work out problems’ with the other person.
The more you become aware of your own intention and choose love rather than control, the easier time you will have creating a safe container in which to resolve conflict.
You can learn much about healing all your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course:Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
For an in-depth and inexpensive way of learning Inner Bonding, see my book: “The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting With Your Divine Guidance.”
And, of course, we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.