TWENTY YEARS AGO, someone named John acted bravely and confronted me on my violent communication style. I was shocked. How could I be perceived as communicating violently? I saw myself as a peaceful person. I had served on the college Peace and Justice Committee. I had volunteered two years with the U.S. Peace Corps. I had lots of friends to confirm my peace-loving character. Thank you, John, wherever you are. You changed my life.
Curious about how I misrepresented myself, I participated in communication workshops. The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and the Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC) offered excellent programs. I learned new skills to communicate in a way that allowed people to hear my message more easily.
Besides my NVC toolbox, I have found that using my intuitive skills to assess where the other person is coming from serves well in a conflict. In my Deepening Your Intuition class, I offer some tips and tools to assess where you or another are coming from.
When you behave in a way that comes from the small self, rather than the Soul Self connected to Divine Love, you see and experience others’ actions and behaviors from their small selves, as well. When you can pause in the moment to rise above the small self and listen to the voice of God Within, you can see the situation from a higher perspective.
“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Here are three suggestions for a conflict:
See a triangle:
You can do this from the quiet of your favorite chair or, if you can, even during a conflict. Imagine a triangle that connects your heart to another person’s heart and the apex of the triangle to Source where you both are One. Imagine that Divine Love is flowing around the triangle, from Oneness to your heart to the other person’s heart. Feel both of you being nourished and filled to overflowing. Notice if anything changes in your conflict. One or both of you might see the situation with new eyes or hear a new perspective.
Listen deeply for unmet needs:
Marshall Rosenberg, founder of NVC, says, “Violence is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” In my own life, I tend to use a critical tone of voice (which feels violent) when I feel things are not going the right way and I feel responsible for the outcome.
For example: When my child wants to leave the house without a coat in the winter, I default to a hard-to-hear tone of voice, “It’s below freezing! You must wear a coat!” The win-lose conflict escalates until I win this one, and my child leaves with a coat, but at what cost to our relationship and to my child’s self-esteem?
In my ideal world, during such a conflict, we would listen deeply for each other’s unmet needs:
“Do you need to make your own choice about what you wear?” I ask.
“Mom, do you need me to stay healthy so I don’t mess up your schedule for the week?” my child replies.
“Well, yes, you nailed that one!” I say.
Whether or not my child wears a coat, we are continuing the conversation at a higher level.
Try another’s perspective:
We see the world through our personalities and our set of experiences. After carrying water up a steep hill in the Peace Corps, I became judgmental when I saw someone using a lot of water to wash dishes. That was my perspective about what was right.
With the conflicts I am observing lately, I notice very distinct views about what is right. Some people care deeply about best practices and procedures. Others care deeply about heart connections to other people. A clash occurs when people see their perspective and priorities as more right than another’s. Try the old adage of walking in someone else’s shoes. How would you receive the message you are delivering if you had walked in the other person’s shoes?
When you are present enough in the moment to connect to Divine Love within each of us, especially during a conflict, you create another stepping stone for peace on earth.