Changing my mind about conflict
My last post finished with the suggestion that we should change our mind about conflict and I want to start to explore what this means.
‘Changing my mind’ is a phrase I have stolen from my partner, who wanted to reclaim it from its usual negative connotation and meaning and instead, use it as a way of making a deliberate and positive choice.
So, what I am suggesting is that when we are in conflict and viewing it as ‘bad’, it may help us if we can change our mind and see it in a different light.
Let me take a couple of examples to explore......
You are a parent and your young child is having a tantrum in the middle of a supermarket.
There are many possible reactions and the one I saw today was the parent starting to shout at the child who then got even louder and more distressed.
Changing your mind in this situation is tough because you may be grappling with a sense of embarrassment, feeling very visible and perhaps being judged as a ‘bad’ parent. The parent will also be running into a bunch of ‘rules’ that exist inside them about how they are meant to behave. These are the rules that we all have - the ones that define our sense of what is normal. The issue with these rules is that we often don’t know we have them until they get broken.
To change your mind, you may need to take a breath and internally go ‘my child is upset about something, I wonder what it is?’
This might enable you to stay relaxed and find a way of interacting with your child other than just shouting. The process of changing your mind is about being able to look at the same situation in a new manner – it requires an effort.
A different example might be that your boss at work, who you usually get on well with, has been abrupt, short and a bit aggressive with you for the last week. You are confused, upset and hurt, you may have started to use the word bullying about their behaviour. Your relationship with them is professional, so you don’t know much about the person aside from how you see them at work.
It will be easy to drop into a very negative place about this type of conflict. If you are not very assertive you may stay quiet – suffer in silence – and hope it stops. If it does than that’s great because things get back to normal and you don’t have to worry about it – or do you, might you be a bit more vigilant for this type of behaviour from your boss?
What happens if the behaviour continues? You may be able to deal with it but it might build up to an outburst from you back at your manager or that you head off to HR and put in a complaint.
So where does changing your mind fit in this picture?
It can kick in at any point but the easiest is when you start to notice the different and uncomfortable behaviour from your boss.
Rather than feeling like the victim of this behaviour – if you can change your mind you create an opportunity to say to yourself ‘something is going on here and I don’t understand what it is’.
Perhaps you can approach them directly, ‘You seem to be behaving differently over the last few days, are things okay?’
Or ‘I’m noticing your seem a bit distracted, can I help?’
The difficulty with these types of approach is that you need a degree of confidence and assertion to be so direct.
If it is difficult for you to be this assertive it may be that you can take a step back from your reaction to their behaviour and start to wonder about what is causing them to behave this way.
This process may not change their behaviour but it can start to change your reaction to their behaviour.
You don’t have to be a victim, you may be able to become an observer and this might give you some space to think what you want to do.
My key thought is, no matter what the circumstance, can I look differently at this situation?
Can I (or am I prepared to) make the effort to change my mind?
What is it that I need to do if I want to change my mind?