The Conflict Resolution Exercise.

I have been really busy preparing for a course I’m running with a colleague, Michael. Although I worked with Michael many years ago in the computer world, this is our first adventure into Personal Development stuff!

And for me it’s difficult……I’m not used to working with other people. I’m used to working for other people in a supporting role.

Usually I get along pretty well with others, mainly because I’m easy going and I like to please people.This has worked to a certain degree for most of my life, but something is shifting. I’ve noticed that I’m not prepared to be easy going and please the other when there’s something important at stake. Namely, this course. It turns out I’m passionate about getting the message across and getting it across in a simple way and I’m prepared to not please Michael in the process! Who knew?

It’s been a revelation and it’s been uncomfortable.

The revelation is that in spite of my not pleasing, Michael still seems to get along with me. I think he might even still like me – how bizarre (to my way of thinking)! The uncomfortable comes in the way I feel when I want to disagree with some point he is making.

What was happening was he would make a suggestion about something we might present and I would feel slight annoyance but say “Ok, right, that sounds fine” . He would think (naturally) that I agreed with his suggestion and go on to elaborate on it. By which time my slight annoyance had grown to extreme annoyance and continued to grow through his deliberation until I was fully angry. Now, Michael is a counsellor and very aware, so he was noticing the signs that suggested there might be a problem and he would say “Well what are your thoughts so far on that?”.  Of course I had no thoughts, well no coherent thoughts anyway, just blind emotion. And in my blind emotion I attacked every position of his suggestion. In this outpouring I was not very aware but I do remember registering the shock on his face! Eventually I would run out of steam and feel exhausted.

After each meeting I would feel huge guilt and wonder why I had ever agreed to work with another human being when it was so difficult, well honestly I was thinking he was so difficult!

This happened at almost every meeting we had. And then there was a wake up….

One of the exercises we run on our course is called Conflict Resolution and it involves standing in the other man’s shoes. The participant (person A) choses a conflict situation to work on and begins by seeing the situation from their own point of view. Then they move into the other person’s (person B’s) chair and sees the conflict from that person’s point of view and finally they move to an observers chair and see it from their point of view. So naturally we had to run through the exercise for ourselves to road test it. I picked what I thought was a pretty innocuous disagreement that I’d had the previous week with a friend. I expected to run through the exercise and pass it as useful.

But I didn’t run through the exercise!

It started fine, I described how I met my friend and we chatted and she said something which I didn’t agree with and I nodded and she went on and on with her erroneous opinion and I became so angry (internally) that I made an excuse and left. I resolved not to meet her again because she was so difficult.

Back in the exercise it was time to move to the other person’s point of view. I began to describe the situation from there. At first it was difficult, I didn’t want to be my friend; she’s annoying and difficult and irritating; but I really wanted to use this exercise in the course so I stuck with it.

And it was a revelation.

From my friend’s point of view we were having a lovely chat about things that interested both of us and suddenly her friend (me) started to look a bit odd and then rushed off without hugging or setting a date for the next chat. Very odd.

For you it might be obvious that my friend didn’t know what had happened but I had no idea at the time!! As soon as I realised this something shifted inside of me. Could it be me who is “annoying and difficult and irritating”? Could it be me who is acting a little crazy?

But we were still running the exercise…… so the next part required me to move to the observer’s chair. From here I could see person A (me!) – in her habit of pleasing everyone – was dishonest to her friend when she feigned agreement. Also, person A’s anger was not caused by her friend but by her own reaction to dishonesty. Her dishonesty….. my dishonesty.

The exercise was over but the learning continued. At our next meeting Michael bravely asked if the “friend” in the conflict exercise was him. I was amazed and speechless. I finally said “No, how could you think that, it had nothing to do with you….”.

But it did. It was the same pattern. The one that begins when I don’t agree with something being said but I keep nodding… keep pleasing. The one that progresses into extreme annoyance, blaming the other person for being difficult and irritating. So it was me! It’s my pattern. Phew, now I’m in a position to change it.

Something as simple as changing position increases perspective and now it’s possible for me to take responsibility, be honest and change this. Next time I disagree with a colleague’s or a friend’s opinion I will notice (be aware) of what’s happening inside of me.

Already I feel peaceful and more in control.

Is there something you’ve been doing for a long time that has outlived it’s usefulness – like my people pleasing? Is it time to take responsibility for you own actions and be honest, at least to yourself?

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