Mindfulness has become the new buzz word. People are engaging in mindfulness, in mindful eating, mindful meditation, and more. My challenge for you is to be mindful in conflict.
First, what is mindfulness? Google defines it as: “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
So, how can you apply it to conflict? Here are 9 tips on being mindful in conflict:
- 1. Focus on the present moment. When in conflict, some people want to dredge up all of the past problems that have ever been. Focus just on the one problem at this instant.
- 2. Focus on the present moment. When in conflict, some people want to jump ahead. “If you do that, then I’m going to do this, and this, and THIS!” Focus on just the one problem at this instant. Don’t jump ahead.
- 3. When your feelings bubble up, calmly acknowledge and accept them. Ride them out. Let them pass. Let them be a part of the conversation without taking over the conversation. Take a break if you need to.
- 4. When judgmental thoughts intrude, such as, “He’s a jerk!” “What an idiot!” calmly acknowledge and accept them but don’t invest in them. These thoughts signify that you have been triggered and are in fight mode. That is all that these thoughts signify. Bring yourself back to mindfulness. Take a break if you need to.
- 5. When thoughts intrude such as, “I can’t take it!” “I have to get away!” calmly acknowledge and accept them but don’t invest in them. These thoughts signify that you have been triggered and are in flight mode. That is all these thoughts signify. Take a break and bring yourself back to mindfulness.
- 6. When you feel your body reacting – your muscles tensing, your face flushing, your fists clenching, your legs twitching, calmly acknowledge and accept that this is happening. If your fists are clenching, you are reacting in fight mode. If your leg is twitching, you are reacting in flight mode. Bring yourself back to mindfulness, back to the present moment. Take a break if you need to.
- 7. Now, be mindful of what is happening for the other person in the conflict. What do you observe in terms of bodily sensations in that person? Does that person appear to be in fight, flight, or freeze? How could you help that person out of that reactive state?
- 8. What do you hear from the other person in terms of thoughts? Does the person sound like s/he is in fight, flight, or freeze? What could you say to help the person out of that reactive state?
- 9. What do you see in terms of facial expressions in the other person? What feelings does the person appear to be experiencing? Is there anything you can do to help the person navigate those emotions?
When we are truly mindful in conflict, we are best able to see all the options available to us and are best able to navigate the conflict successfully. We still experience emotions, but they don’t drive us to do or say things we might later regret. We still experience reactions in our body, and we have the ability to slow things down and figure out why we are being triggered in this fashion. We open ourselves to fully understanding what is happening for both ourselves and for others involved in the process with us.
Is it easy? No. Like meditating, it takes practice. It’s hard in the beginning and it gets easier over time. With certain people, it will be harder than with others. You will think you have it mastered, and then there will be a situation or a person that will be particularly triggering and you will feel like you are back at square one. It’s OK. Conflict isn’t easy, and neither is mindfulness.
Just keep practicing.