23 Tips for Turning Conflict into Peace
I hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter. I bless you with inner peace that glows from your heart. Unfortunately, holidays are not merry and bright for everyone. I’ve written this article to help people who struggle at this time of the year. However, you can apply these skills 365 days a year.
• Have loved ones passed on? Has there been a divorce or a relationship break-up? Are you still grieving?
• Are there conflicts in your family? Do you try to put on a happy face, but inside you brace against the next insensitive comment?
• Do family members refuse to come together because there is too much pain?
• Is there sickness?
Many people experience one or more of these situations. I want to extend my compassion to those of you who suffer during the holidays. When everything is supposed to happy, we may experience even deeper pain because we are hurting.
Here are 23 suggestions to help you develop inner peace and manage conflict.
1. First, choose to develop inner peace. You don’t have to know how to do it or even be good at it. Just choose it. Ask God to help you. Make a commitment to develop personal mastery even if your partner criticizes you. As a metaphor, if you want to become a black belt karate master, you begin with a white belt. Over time and with lots of practice, you develop high-level skills and finally reach the black belt level.
2. Notice when you first begin to get upset. Don’t wait for the pressure to build up. It will be more difficult to manage. Observe yourself. Does your voice get edgy? Do you want to fight back? Do you emotionally withdraw? Do you get heady instead of being heart-centered? Do you breathe shallowly? Do your muscles tighten up? What happens when we feel threatened?
3. Take a time-out to center yourself. First of all, you want to soothe your nervous system. It needs help because it went into hyper-arousal when you felt threatened. Our natural reactions are fight, flight or freeze. Excuse yourself and go to the bathroom for some privacy. Or, go for a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Inhale to the count of four. Hold your breath to the count of four, and exhale to the count of eight.
If you go for a walk, count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. with every step you take. Breathe into your heart center and imagine your favorite beautiful place in nature.
4. Focus your attention on the people who love you and support you. Breathe that love into your heart. Place an imaginary protective bubble around yourself that envelops you and all the people who support you.
5. Ask for spiritual guidance from God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit or however you conceptualize your spiritual support. Don’t just complain. Open your mind and listen to what God wants to communicate to you. Write it down if you can. It will sink in better. God will have a hard time getting through to you if you don’t ask for help. God gives you free will and waits to be invited into your heart and mind.
6. Have compassion for the part of you who struggles. If you try to be tough and stuff your emotions, you’re in effect telling a hurt part of yourself that it is unloved. I often think of this as my inner child. None of us like feeling unloved and neither do our inner family members.
Find the inner family member who feels hurt or angry or scared. Invite them to share their innermost feelings with you. You have a nurturing parent inside of you and the Holy Spirit who is compassionate. Listen to the pain of the inner child. Be empathetic. Ask your inner wise self and God for comfort. This process develops emotional and spiritual intimacy within your internal family. This will help you feel centered again.
With practice, you can experience inner peace no matter how others respond to you.
7. Remember, anger often covers up hurt, fear or a sense of rejection. If you lead with your anger or emotional distance, you’ll pull for defensiveness from others. If you lead with your softer vulnerable feelings, you’ll pull for empathy. I know that’s challenging. The journey towards personal mastery begins with one small step.
8. Take responsibility for your own emotional reactions. Don’t blame others. What arises from within you is the material from your own psyche. Sometimes we don’t want to take responsibility for our own material.
I know it’s tempting to blame others and get angry with them when they don’t behave the way you want them to. You feel more powerful when you’re angry or stoic. But this is not the way to genuine empowerment, nor is it the way to inner peace. It perpetuates the cycle of suffering within yourself and your family.
9. You don’t have control over changing other’s behavior. Accept that. Take responsibility for returning yourself to inner peace.
10. When there’s a conflict, don’t get quiet or blow up. After you center yourself, apologize for anything you can take responsibility for. Share what you want to do differently in the future when you get triggered.
11. Reach out to repair the relationship breach. Begin with a soft sincere voice and look directly into your partner’s eyes.
12. Tell your partner something positive … how much they mean to you … or give them a sincere compliment. Affirm them. That helps build an emotional attachment.
13. Tell them what is hurtful to you. Speak about your own emotions. Share the interpretations you made and check them out for accuracy. Don’t assume you are right. Get feedback and keep an open mind. Don’t analyze your partner and make him wrong. People tend to get defensive when you do that.
14. Invite your partner to share his feelings. Listen to understand.
15. Unless he has lots of training in communication skills, he may not take personal responsibility or listen well. Have compassion. He is doing the best he can. Listen for the heart of his pain.
16. Empathize and validate his feelings whenever you can. You don’t have to agree with his interpretations. Don’t argue about the facts or stay in your head. Express that you genuinely care about his pain.
17. After several interchanges of listening to each other, hopefully, your hearts will be more connected. Ask: “What can I do to support you right now?” Listen to understand.
18. Make a promise to help lessen his pain. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Do what you can.
19. Ask this question: “Would you like to know what you can do to support me right now?” Develop warmth and caring first by listening to each other.
20. Offer concrete specific suggestions. Focus on creating solutions rather than continuing to complain. Make specific requests of your partner to change his behavior. Remember, speak in a respectful, caring tone of voice.
21. You may not do any of this perfectly. Do what you can. Start with one small step. Which suggestion do you want to start with? Practice that one thing.
22. Remind yourself of your goals to do your part to build a healthy relationship. Put a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, your desk or your car dashboard. Set alarms on your smartphone. Choose a picture that symbolizes your goal and set it as wallpaper on your phone or computer. Make a sign and hang it on the door as you exit your house.
23. Be compassionate with yourself when you fail. Be compassionate with your partner. We all carry pain, and we don’t always know how to express it wisely. Practice, practice, practice. That’s what it takes to move from a white belt to a black belt karate master.
Well, there you have it. I’ve given you two blueprints. One to manage your emotional reactivity and one to repair relationship breaches. I know it’s easier said than done. It takes practice just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.
Blessings to you for inner peace, wisdom and love.
Benita A Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
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Watch these videos:
Click here to watch the video about my bestselling book: The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert, Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self. Available on Amazon.
Click here to watch a TV interview I did about research by Dr. John Gottman on what makes masters and disasters of marriage. “Four Horsemen: Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Marriage.”