Last month we shared our Guiding Principles that people embody when they are seeking understanding, unity, and harmony with others.  This month we highlight the work we need to do in Phase 1 before we can respond from the embodiment of those principle.
This practice occurs in 3 phases and 11 steps.  You can use the practice unilaterally or, ideally, with your colleague if they are willing to experiment with a new approach to conflict which promises to strengthen your relationship.  Initially, an effective, neutral facilitator can provide valuable assistance.
Phase 1 – Thoughtful Reflection:
  1. Notice that you are upset.  Awareness that you are not at peace with something or someone is important.  Your internal indicators never lie but you need to tune into them.  These indicators are your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that signal you are experiencing distress with what is occurring or has occurred.  For example, thinking “I can’t believe this!” with frustration, a clenched jaw, and a red face.
  2. Accept your experience in a larger perspective.  Your feelings and initial assessments of what is happening matter. They need to be accompanied by the perspective that you cannot, in this moment, see or know everything that is happening. While you quietly acknowledge to yourself that you are upset and perturbed, question what could be happening for others at the same time.  For example, changing the thought process from only thinking “I am frustrated! She won’t let me contribute and she’s continually blocking us from getting this project done!” Instead, an additional question should be added “I wonder what’s going on for her?”
  3. Focus on observable facts not perceptions.  As quickly as possible, take a breath, and see if you can separate what actually happened from the derogatory assessments of what you think the other person did wrong.  Avoid going into the past and getting more upset by reliving your prior experiences that make this event seem worse, such as additional work or a problem you are now left to deal with.  Give the individual the benefit of the doubt and accept that these things can happen.  Reframe what made you upset as just a moment in time where you need to find an effective resolution.  For example, “Our deliverable is due Friday and we had agreed to work on it on Tuesday. She wants to throw away our work and start over.  I am committed to meeting the deadline by enhancing our work completed to date.  We need to work this out one way or the other.”
  4. Find the learning opportunity and avoid degrading thoughts or comments.    Reframe this scenario as an opportunity to strengthen the positive quality or skill that was missing. This is in contrast to festering on what went wrong.  For example, thinking “I know this is another reminder to be more patient with people I don’t easily resonate with.  At the same time, maybe I’m not effectively communicating the value I am bringing to this project or not honoring the value she has contributed.”
  5. Focus on your own responsibility.  Inquire into what, even if only a small percentage, is your part that contributed to getting yourself into this situation.  Take the time you need to reflect upon this and be ready to calmly share your own misstep and ask your colleague what they think your part is.  For example, thinking “Perhaps I have been pushing my agenda too hard without leaving room for your creativity.”

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