Make CONFLICT an Art

mom and daughterI’m in a different place about conflict. As a quiet child, mostly an introvert, I didn’t know how to step into respectful, yet authentic, conflict until I was an adult. I slowly progressed from total avoidance and cluelessness, to fill-in-the-blank statements of feelings, needs and requests, then to learning to trust my inner listening, and sooner or later act on it. There were also times when I was paralyzed by my own anger. My initial steps were hard, and often real progress took years. Although now laden with skills, there was still a little something about teenagers and conflict left unresolved.
No wonder there’s a growth curve. The nervous system is processing old patterns and memories at the speed of light (just a guess), and is revved and  ready to jump into fight or flight mode. Every cell in one’s body can scream out of fear and self-preservation. It seems as though there is no room for any other viewpoint.
It takes so much courage and commitment to listen when one is convinced that there is just one way.
Recently I was privileged to be present to teenage-parent conflict. Under difficult circumstances, I was blessed by witnessing courage and listening. I learned that we don’t have to be perfect or get it perfect to reach a new perspective. I learned about the importance of commitment to listen and surrender into understanding and unknowing no matter what.
I want to tell everyone who has ever entered conflict and come out the other side with more openness and new perspectives, “Congratulations and thank you. Each moment of facing the fire, dancing with the fire, and deep listening is a blessing to us all.” I want to hug this teen and parent.
What are some of the steps for walking into the fire and coming out the other side, that come to heart and mind now?
  1. Inner listening. I have two strong inside voices: The one that declares righteousness and is sure the other person is wrong, and the one that says I’m uncomfortable, and, “Oh, bother, better deal with it”. The former can be loud. The latter, once I feed it with trust, can guide me, soothe me, announce clear grounded boundaries, and needs, and tell me to breathe and listen more.
  2. Dry runs. If it helps, first write things out or talk to the type of friend who is a good listener and won’t try to fix it or sympathize with you. Sometimes, it’s important to let go of layers before getting to the essence.
  3. Timing. Find the right time. When no time is the right time, choose the closest time to the right time. It might take more than one conversation.
  4. Accountability. Be open to your responsibility and vulnerability, even if it’s simply not knowing or not having all the information, or feeling hurt or mad. 
  5. Breath. Stay strong and grounded. Breathe. 
  6. Respect. No dumping. It can help to start with an appreciation.
  7. Deep Listening. Listen and share. Make an intention of  understanding. Reflect what you are hearing in a way that takes you deep inside the other person, into their thoughts, feelings, hurts, and values. Get curious about what can be harvested from deep inside. Share from that same place of being curious about your own inner experience.
  8. Adventure. Be willing to go into the unknown, and be clear about your roots and home base. Deep understanding brings about surprises, not necessarily compromises.  
Part of my own shift is the realization that entering into conflict is an art, one that can only grow when appreciated and nurtured. I know You give gifts to our children that help them grow and learn from conflict. What are they? What’s your next area of deepening and learning?

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