Managing conflict: proving your point peacefully

Recently, someone really pushed my buttons. They made a series of rude and insensitive comments, all the while smiling and pretending to be a friend while both their words and energy spoke otherwise. It didn’t fully hit me until later that this person doesn’t have the greatest intentions. At that point I was angry at the person, and angry at myself for not doing a better job of sticking up for myself. I started thinking of all the things I wanted to say to them, “fuck off” being at the top of the list.

Then I paused to reflect upon whether or not I was blowing this whole thing out of proportion. After all, I barely know this person, and know that there is no truth to the things they were saying anyway. I wanted to just be able to get off my chest what this person had done to offend me rather than sit around and stew about it.

Whenever situations like this pop up, I always remember the words of my former counsellor, who used to work with me a lot about developing assertiveness. She playfully named our sessions “operation thick skin,” because I was so sensitive at the time. This was over a decade ago; however, confrontation is still not my jam. I like when things flow smoothly and everyone gets along. I don’t like making waves, even if someone else already is. This sometimes leads me to withdraw from conflict, and then feel resentful later. As I get older (and hopefully wiser!) I am learning ways of facing conflict in peaceful and effective ways.

Clear your energy 

When it comes to conflict, prevention can be the best cure. Keeping your personal energy clear is a good way to start creating peace in your outer world.

A person’s energy speaks volumes about them without them saying a word. When I am feeling grounded, when I’ve taken the time to do things for myself like meditate and exercise, people don’t seem to mess with me. It’s like they can sense that they’re drama won’t affect me that much and just move on to another victim. Likewise, when I am strong and connected, I am better able to tap into the energy around me and just steer clear of negative people.

A lot of unwanted conflicts tend to arise for me when I’ve neglecting that connection to my higher power. My energy gets scattered and it’s like I become a magnet for other unbalanced people, who just trigger me and make matters way worse. Even though I convince myself otherwise at times, I need that feeling of connection. It’s almost like a shield that protects me from unloving people and situations.

Honour your inner warrior

I know women (and men too!) who are sweet and caring and positive, but can switch to warrior mode in a heartbeat if they feel threatened or feel the need to defend another. I definitely aspire to be like this, in my own way. I think I subconsciously shut down that part of myself that is strong, courageous, bold and fearless because I was scared to come off as too aggressive. In my childhood and adolescence I experienced violence and aggression, and every part of my being wanted to be nothing like that. So I swung my pendulum in the other direction and became too passive.

What I remind myself of now is that sometimes, confronting someone in a peaceful manner is the most loving thing you can do. It’s ok for me to speak my mind, as long I do it in a healthy way without resorting to name calling or blaming. And it takes a certain degree of vulnerability to say to someone in essence, “What you said or did hurt me. Please don’t do that again.” Those people that I witnessed being aggressive and violent didn’t have a clue how to be vulnerable or deal with their feelings in a healthy way; they just exploded every time things didn’t go their way.

A warrior is calm, focused and in control. A warrior stands in their power. A warrior always uses their wisdom and chooses the most peaceful form of resolution possible. We all have a warrior inside of us! Acknowledge and tap into that energy when you need to be strong and powerful.  A helpful tecnique is to stand with your feet hip distance apart, firmly rooted to the ground. Stand tall and feel yourself connecting with the earth below- literally standing your ground! Know that no matter what the outcome of this conflict, this connection will not be broken, and you will be safe and loved.

Know your values and stick to them

Most of the time, when conflict arises for me, it’s because someone has violated one of my core values. We all have values whether we are aware of them or not. For me, accountability, honesty and respect are things that I highly value and expect from both others and myself. It’s helpful to identify which of my values has been threatened before I launch into a tirade on someone. This gives me some perspective on why I am so bothered. That way, I know what I am asking for. If it’s more respect, then I know I need to reach for a solution that will lead to me feeling respected, and I won’t settle for anything that compromises that value.

Not that it ever makes it ok, but if I feel that someone is disrespecting me, I ask if I am disrespecting myself in some way. Likewise if I’m dealing with someone being dishonest, I ask myself if I have been lying to myself about something. I find that my inner relationship with myself somehow always manifests in my outer relationships.

Seek to teach rather than belittle

When someone offends me, my first instinct is to get into my ego and reclaim my power by making them feel bad. This might make me feel momentarily better, but rarely does anything but keep the drama going. I believe that enemies can become friends if they are simply educated on one another’s viewpoint. Talking to someone, either in person or in a letter, about what you think they did wrong or how their actions affected you can be a catalyst for change. Using “I statements” can be very helpful at getting your point across without projecting blame: statements like “I feel embarrassed when you make jokes like that.” This keeps the focus on you and the other persons actions, rather than judging or attacking them.

Most of the time people aren’t consciously trying to hurt or offend anyone, and will be apologetic once they learn that they are inadvertently doing so. But those same people will likely throw up a wall if they feel attacked or belittled.

Know when to walk away 

Honestly, there are going to be people in everyone’s lives that just won’t “get it”, no matter how great you are at expressing your feelings. There are people out there who are narcissists and will only feel empowered by knowing that they are getting to you. In a case like that the best thing to do is to cut and run. I know that this can be a challenge, especially if this person is in your inner circle, such as a colleague or partner. This is when you need to really get into your warrior energy and do what you need to protect yourself. It may take time to get out of that situation, but will be so worth it in the long run.

Healing past conflicts 

There are those conflicts that happened in the past and can no longer be addressed with the other person face to face. Perhaps the other person has passed away, or to contact them would just cause more trauma. I’m a writer, so my modality of healing always goes back to writing! Try writing a letter describing all the ways in which this person’s actions affected you. Personally, I find it helpful to actually speak it out loud, too. Literally get those words out of you and give them up to the Universe to heal. You can create a whole healing ceremony around releasing this conflict, or you can just do it in your car or room or wherever you feel safe. It may seem silly, but know that whenever you release something like that, you are creating a space for light to fill.

As much as it’s my least favourite thing to deal with, conflict is a part of life. I don’t believe that we’re here to be these enlightened beings that sit on a mountaintop and meditate all day. We irritate each other, trigger each other, poke each other in our wounds. We learn and heal from these experiences, then more stuff comes up for us to work through. Growth comes from learning to deal with these situations as peacefully as possible. Conflict is always uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. The trick is to learn from the experience without hanging onto the hurt. Take the lesson and leave the rest!

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