Reducing Conflict Through Mindfulness
Differences and disagreements are natural. Conflict in itself is not a problem; navigating it in a healthy way is how we learn and grow. And, it can often feel overwhelming and insurmountable. Sometimes we experience gridlock in relationship that causes us to just want to walk away.
Applying mindfulness to our interactions with others demystifies perceived problems, clearing the way for truth and essence. It builds the capacity and the confidence to stick with it in any relationship. It allows us to see through the muck of unnecessary pain and disconnect and uncover the potential of authentic and easeful connection that lies beneath.
What appear to be a problem is often the signature of a lack of self-awareness that creates unnecessary complications. Two things prepare us to navigate tension and conflict gracefully:
- Developing self-awareness and
- Integrating present moment awareness in our communication.
Engaging in conflict without self-awareness can be like passing back and forth a hot potato. When the impulse is to project emotions onto others by blaming and shaming, it’s like saying “Ouch, this is hot – you take it!” It’s a way to protect the vulnerable truth of what we are feeling and reject before being rejected, piling on layers and layers of reaction on top of the actual issue.
Developing self-awareness is about getting to know our conditioned emotional responses of fight, flight, or freeze and recognizing them in the moment. Then we can take accountability for our emotions and embrace them with compassion, instead of expecting others to do this for us.
Integrating present moment awareness into our everyday interactions helps us untangle the places where “mine” and “yours” are so intertwined that it is difficult to see the bottom and impossible to make any changes. When we can claim what is ours, we can take responsibility and move toward true resolution and connection.
Here’s a simple way to apply mindfulness to a conflict:
- Stop and take a pause
- Take some mindful breaths
- Observe body sensations, feelings and thoughts
- Proceed with greater awareness
By creating space with a pause, we illuminate that we have a choice.
Instead of mindlessly following the conditioned response to react (fight), disassociate (flight), or internalize (freeze), we intercept the pattern and open the doorway to connect to our true needs and to hear the needs and feelings of others.
When we bring awareness to the choice point, we make room for empathy, curiosity, authenticity, and compassion and develop the capacity to turn our reactions into healthy, mindful responses that grow our relationships, instead of slowing them.
It’s a bonus when everyone shares common values around conflict navigation, and, all it takes is one person to do the work for it to make a significant difference and create more ease and connection in any relationship.