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How to Become Highly Skilled at Resolving Conflicts Peacefully

Conflict becomes scary and draining when we attach the wrong significance to it. Emotionally charged situations can cause us to react badly to conflict. It’s so vital to mentally take a step back, observe without judgment and release the tension. Then use my process for resolving conflicts peacefully…“I don’t think anyone ever gets completely used to conflict. If it’s not a little uncomfortable, then it’s not real. The key is to keep doing it anyway” ~ Patrick Lencioni

“I hate conflict! I prefer to let them do what they want, rather than make a scene…even if it means I feel like I destroy a little bit of who I am each time.” Is that how you feel about resolving conflicts? Many people do. They question whether it’s even possible to resolve some conflicts peacefully.

It’s worth the effort. Learning to successfully manage conflict will help keep you healthy and happy. Of course, it’s easy to say, “Just tell them how you feel.” But when you’re the one feeling cornered or threatened, it’s not easy to think rationally and remain calm.

So what’s the secret to resolving conflicts peacefully and getting the best outcome?

First, we need to identify conflict for what it is and what it isn’t. It’s not a challenge. It’s not a declaration that you’re unloved. It’s not a put down. It’s not an assessment of your worth.

It is a different point of view. And that’s something we can welcome, for it helps us expand our own thinking and way of being. That being said, there are times when a person will cause conflict with the intention to hurt you. When that happens, walk away from that kind of conflict, shake it off, and put that burden back on the shoulders of the instigator where it belongs.

Conflict becomes scary and draining when we attach the wrong significance to it. Emotionally charged circumstances often cause us to react badly to conflict. That’s why it’s so vital to practice mindfulness to mentally take a step back, observe without judgment and release the tension. Then you can use the following process to resolving conflicts peacefully….

Remind yourself that being right isn’t the issue. Handling conflict isn’t about being right or wrong – that only creates barriers. When you push your point of view as the only right one, you may win the battle (the disagreement), but you’ll lose the war (the relationship). If you tend towards being competitive, now is the time to remove that element from the situation. Instead, switch your focus to finding a peaceful resolution you can both live with.

Turn on your listening skills. Our talking, shouting or interrupting accomplishes nothing. Rather than talking at someone, learn to talk with them. That means only responding after you’ve listened deeply. You don’t have to agree with what’s said. Just acknowledge how the other person thinks and feels. Remember that a kind touch goes a long way toward improving communication. (You can learn more about listening skills on my other website The Institute for Professional Leadership.)

Breathe deeply and maintain your calm. Calmness enables you to clearly articulate your thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “This upsets me. Give me a moment to catch my breath, so we can resolve this peacefully.” If you have to, ask for a break, promising that you’ll revisit it later in the day. Avoid putting it off until tomorrow, because that allows room for festering.

 Be forward thinking. Dredging up and using the past as a weapon is not productive. Let it go. Be mindfully in the moment, step back and see the big picture of what’s happening right now.

Set your intention for a peaceful resolution. Visualize the desired outcome and mentally map out all of your options. Be honest with yourself about what your true intention is. If you’re hanging on to a little bit of wanting to get even, to hurt them like they hurt you, it’s going to manifest itself. With a clear intention to make peace in your relationship, you’ll look for common ground. 

Focus on WE, not me. Find a solution that serves both of you. Use words that show you’re invested in a mutually beneficial solution. For example, “What can WE do to…?”

Viewing conflict resolution as a system helps you create a plan for productive communication. The other person may not always respond in kind. Nevertheless, by taking the higher path, you’ll create an atmosphere that’s more conducive to successfully resolving conflicts peacefully.

If you’d like help in creating a calmer, peaceful life, please feel free to contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). 

Celebrate the Unique Person You Are and Stop Being a People Pleaser

When you start from a grounded, well-balanced sense of self and others, it isn’t difficult to stand up for yourself and celebrate the unique person you are. Imbalance, or people pleasing, comes when you care too much, at the expense of what you hold dear. But you can recover and embrace the unique you.“Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world. Don’t let anything stand in the way of the light that shines through this form. Risk being seen in all of your glory.” ~ Jim Carrey

It’s normal to want to be loved, to fit in, and to be accepted. We care what other’s think. That’s why we all do the dance of give and take – we’re trying to find our place in our family, the workplace, our community and the world. And if you start from a grounded, well-balanced sense of self and others, it isn’t so difficult to stand up for yourself, celebrate the unique person you are, and be your own woman.

The imbalance comes when we care too much, at the expense of what we hold dear. This leads to being a people pleaser, which is something that women especially struggle with.

Have you noticed how fear of rejection or conflict makes you shrink back from letting others see who you really are? You might mistakenly think that if you never make waves, if you agree with everything, if you always change your plans to accommodate others, if you always say “yes” even when your gut is screaming “NO!” then you’ll be loved instead of rejected.

This kind of desperation for love and approval ultimately hides the unique person that you are. It’s unrealistic, exhausting, and can irreparably damage your health. It can’t work, because you won’t love yourself. And when you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. And when you’re so intent on getting love rather than showing love, your desperation repels the very people you want to please.

The good news is that you can regain your balance and learn to love yourself as you are and be strong enough to speak your own truth at all times. Does that sound out of reach for you? Let me assure you, it isn’t. You can celebrate the unique person you are now and fully embrace the person you want to become in the future.

How to reclaim the real you…

First off, it’s vital to identify the factors that have thrown you off balance. This involves digging into the past. That takes courage and willingness to be vulnerable. But you don’t have to put on a brave face any more. Mindfully peel back the layers, like peeling an onion. Yes, there will be tears, but think of the end results – you’ll discover the perfect sauce for a joyful life.

Most often the root of the problem can be traced to things that trigger your guilt and shame. These self-destructive emotions feed on your worries, insecurities and fears. They tell you that you’re not good enough…that you don’t deserve good things. Everyone else deserves it, but not you.

Guilt and shame have three major lies you might be buying into:

Lie #1 – It’s selfish to put yourself first. That’s a lie because you won’t have the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual strength to care for someone else, if you haven’t taken care of your own needs first. You will never have the confidence and belief in yourself to help others. Self-love is an essential step to being the truly amazing person you’re meant to be. Accept that you are a unique person with talents and opinions the world needs.

Lie #2 – You’re stupid and ungrateful to turn down any opportunity. That’s a lie because you simply can’t do everything that comes your way. There isn’t enough time in the day or energy in your body. We all have to make choices and that means saying “no” to something, so you can say “yes” to something more important. Remember, you’re allowing someone else, who would really enjoy the opportunity, to step up. So embrace the fact that it’s a kindness to say “no.”

Lie # 3 – You’re going to cause a scene, create conflict, and hurt someone if you say “no.” That’s a lie because you are not responsible for how others react. Oftentimes we blow things out of proportion and envision the worse case scenario. In reality, the other person usually shrugs, says “okay” and moves on. It’s not that big of a deal. If they cause a scene or conflict, that’s on them. It’s not you. It’s them.

It’s time to stand up for yourself, stop being a people pleaser, and celebrate the unique person you are now and who you’ll become in the future.

  • Make time for what’s important to you.
  • Think about a request before answering.
  • When you say ‘no’, do it confidently because that’s how you really feel.
  • Don’t take responsibility for the other person’s reaction.
  • Don’t relive your decision or stress about it for hours afterwards. 
  • Don’t look for hidden meanings or attach significance that isn’t there.

Your worth does not hinge on acquiescing. Do you believe that? No matter what you decide, you have no reason to feel guilt or shame. You are worthy of your place on this planet. You are an amazing human being, a unique person with gifts and talents that contribute to making this world a better place.

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to lose sight of what makes you a unique person. I’m here to help you gain more clarity. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). 

How to Make a Relationship Last Forever

While many relationships fail, be assured, it is possible to make your relationship last forever. Even if you’re experiencing difficulty, you can make things better by building trust and true intimacy in your relationship. You can learn how to make a relationship last forever.“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” ~Brene Brown

Fairy tales and love stories feed us fantasies of perfect “happy ever after” relationships. But, in reality, we see unhappy, unhealthy relationships all around us. Is it even possible that you can make a relationship last forever?

It is possible if you choose wisely, work hard, and you both remain committed to making it work. Working with couples, I have seen the deep longing that people have for being seen, heard and understood. Both partners long for it so much that it gets in the way of each one seeing, hearing and understanding their partner. Is that perhaps true in your case, too?

How can you make your relationship last forever?

First, rather than asking, “How can I make a relationship last forever? Ask, “How can we create a love that lasts forever?” Do you see the positive shift in this language?

Here are five other shifts that will help you promote a long-lasting relationship:

Shift “I can change him” into “I love him warts and all.” It’s a fairy tale to kiss a frog and change him into a perfect prince. When you commit to someone, you’re accepting him as he is. To manipulate, cry and pout because he doesn’t live up to your unrealistic expectations is dishonest. That’s why it’s so important to know yourself before ever beginning a relationship. Only then will you recognize the right partner for you.

If you’re already in a relationship, it’s never too late to learn to appreciate and wholeheartedly accept each other as you are. I love how Thomas Merton describes this:

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

 Shift “I’m not getting what I want and need” into “I give without any strings attached.” Expecting to get more than you give is a poor foundation for any relationship. Give for the sheer joy of giving. Delighting each other makes love grow.

Shift “My dream” into “Our shared vision”. We all need to have dreams. To pursue a relationship when you’re stuck on only “my dream,” will make you feel trapped, frustrated, and resentful. Look for someone who has the same vision as you do, so you can build on it, while allowing you both to achieve your most important individual dreams.

Shift “I can’t talk to him about THAT!” into “We hold sacred our intimate secrets.” It takes vulnerability and trust to open up to each other. You earn trust by keeping intimate things private. You don’t run off to tell mom, sisters, or friends what your man’s weaknesses or insecurities are. It’s between you and him alone. And you don’t hold it against him. You see it as an opportunity to step up and supportively add what he lacks.

Shift “He’s not the man I married” into “We’re growing together.” It’s inevitable that you both will change. When you’re committed to growing together, you allow each other space to explore and develop. You can freely express feelings, needs, hopes and dreams. You support each other, not being afraid of where the change will take you, because you’re in the journey together and that’s exciting!

Conflicts and disagreement are bound to happen. If you haven’t learned to feel safe in these situations, you may take them as a sign you shouldn’t be together. But it’s actually a sign that you don’t have the right skills to overcome those moments…yet.

Repair is the most important step to disagreement. You can learn to resolve and deepen your relationship by following my Three Steps to Personal Responsibility in Relationships:

  1. I am responsible for understanding myself – my wants, needs and values;
  2. I am responsible for verbalizing that understanding to you;
  3. YOU are responsible for co-creating with me a relationship where I feel safe to speak my truth. (This helps both parties to take responsibility for their part in the relationship.)

Having been married for almost 26 years, I understand that cultivating a healthy relationship takes a lot of work. Both parties need to be interested in growing personally and updating old familial patterns that aren’t useful anymore.

Sometimes you can get stuck. I get that. I’m here to help you get past that and gain more clarity. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).  If you want something in your relationship to change, that change must begin with you.

Start Treating Your Inner Critic as a Friend, Not a Foe

Start Treating Your Inner Critic as a Friend, Not a Foe“I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.” ~ Kristen Neff

Isn’t it true that in daily conversation, when you talk about yourself, you use the pronoun “I”? That’s the normal way of talking about yourself: “I went to the store.” “I heard you.” On the other hand, doesn’t your inner critic accuse with the pronoun “You”? “You’re so stupid!” “You’re a mess!”

What do I mean by inner critic? It’s that negative voice in your head. She wants “you” to pay attention to her, but you really don’t want to hear what she has to say. What a battle. No wonder it’s called an inner conflict.

We aren’t born with an inner critic that tells us “You’re stupid!” “You’re a mess!” But over your lifetime you have received negative feedback – from a parent, sibling, teacher, or peer. As a result, your inner critic is just parroting it as truth, because you haven’t told her anything differently.

It’s important to realize that your inner critic is a part of you that is trying to keep you safe: safe from judgment, safe from failure, safe from disappointment. Just safe.. It resides in your vulnerability, where it really hurts. But when you examine that vulnerability with mindfulness, you can thank your inner critic for a job well done.  

Does that advice surprise you? You might think the answer is to ignore your inner critic. But that doesn’t work, does it? The reason for this is as I’ve previously discussed, inner conflict is the result of our subconscious parts not working harmoniously together.

The good news is you can create internal harmony with your inner critic with practice and patience.

 

When your inner critic is trying to get your attention, instead of ignoring her, try the following 8 steps:

  1. Slow down using mindfulness to be aware of, and present with, an inner disturbance.
  2. Observe the self-talk.
  3. Externalize and personify the inner critic.
  4. Join the inner critic energy.
  5. Dialogue with the inner critic as “WE”.
  6. Practice acceptance, non-judgment, and self-compassion.
  7. Watch the inner critic lose its energy and intensity.
  8. Move forward together in a collaborative partnership

 

To illustrate how these steps work in real life I’ll share Tea Time exercise I often do with my clients.

When you’re in a quiet space, imagine you’ve invited your inner critic to Tea Time. She’s not your enemy, so welcome her to the table with open arms and a smile. Do some breathing exercises to remain calm.

As you sip your cup of tea, engage your inner critic in a conversation, such as the following:

Your inner critic begins: “You are so stupid!”

Nodding, you calmly change the “You” to “I”, and, without resistance, you accept what is said, asking for more information: “I am so stupid and…?”

Taken aback the inner critic says: “I just want you to know that I don’t like you right now.”

You respond: “Okay, I’m stupid and I don’t like myself, and…?

Deflated, because you’re agreeing, the inner critic says: We need to fix this.”

You join with your inner critic, shifting to “we” as you further agree: “Yes, we need to fix this. What should we do?”

Your inner critic joins with you and suggests the course of action you know you need to take even though it may be painfully hard to do: I need to go to my friend, swallow my pride, and apologize.”

Now that your inner critic has warned you of a problem, you’ve identified the discord – the fight between knowing what you should do and feeling fear in doing it – you can master your inner game. Your course is set. You prepare what you want to say to your friend to repair and regain harmony in your friendship.

 

Internal conflict will seldom be that easy to resolve, especially if the negative talk originated with someone you love and is deeply ingrained. Once you know the steps involved in this process, you can calmly have this conversation with yourself about anything.  

You’ll often find that the criticism can be changed to inner strength. Here are a few examples…

  • From: “You’re too sensitive!” To: “I don’t take myself too seriously, and I have compassion for others.
  • From: “You’re so gullible!” To: “I’m glad I’m not jaded and I have innocence still.”
  • From: “You always procrastinate!” To: “I don’t have to be in a rush. I can live in the moment, enjoy it, and plan out what’s most important for me right now.”

Joining with your inner critic requires practice. It may even require the assistance of a trained professional, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s no shame in that.

Would you like more help making friends with your inner critic? I’d love to show you how you can use my Tea Time Exercise in greater depth. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). Let’s sit down and have a cuppa.

How You Can Regain Emotional Stability After a Life-Altering Crisis

Emotional stability will help you handle life altering crises“Whatever good things we build end up building us.” ~ Jim Rohn

I love stability, don’t you? It’s kind of like driving. We want our cars to ride smoothly, but there are always bumps in the road. That’s why we need emotional stability. Like shock absorbers, being emotionally stable allows us to withstand and handle adversity while we still keep moving forward.

However, because life is always changing, it’s vital to have a system for fully experiencing the highs, the lows and everything in between.

For day-to-day stresses, you can maintain emotional stability by using methods such as meditation, becoming more mindful, exercise and restorative sleep.

But life often throws things at us that we’re not prepared to handle. People are confronted with tragic circumstances like life-changing health issues, death of a loved one, divorce, physical and/or sexual abuse, violence, accidents, and so much more. We’re not born knowing how to deal with these things. And it’s quite possible that no one in your immediate family or circle of friends has had to deal with them either, so they can’t help you.

If you’ve experienced an emotional crisis that has thrown you completely off balance, what can you do to regain emotional stability?

A momentary lapse in behavior does not make you emotionally unstable. The emotional instability I’m talking about is caused by a lifetime of repressed emotions, tamping them down instead of experiencing emotions in a healthy manner. That’s when we become unstable and ungrounded.

It’s like a thorn in your finger that leads to an infection, except it’s an emotional splinter in your heart and soul. It’s always raw and sore. It limits what you can do, because you’re preoccupied with the wound. And since you tell yourself that it’s ugly, you try to keep it hidden.

How can you clear out emotional debris?  

You can’t just dig around your festering wound superficially. That would be like getting part of the thorn out, but leaving the tip. You must get to the bottom of it and fully feel the entire range – the breadth and depth of your emotion. Painful? Yes! But that’s the way healing occurs.

Many people keep their calendars so booked that they don’t have time to think. I suggest you clear some time, perhaps even devoting the next year to making your emotional hygiene a priority. Make the commitment to take time to experience your emotions fully as they arise. In that way, you can develop a reliable system for emotional stability.

Developing or regaining emotional stability will not happen overnight. It’s going to take time and practice. Your progress will depend on how long you can sit with your deeply disturbing emotions like sadness, anger, or fear.

Here’s how to do it: Each time you feel a wave of that emotion, find a quiet place by yourself and go deeply into it. If you’re feeling sad, think about the saddest things in your life. Then just cry it out until there’s nothing left. (If the thought of doing this frightens you or if you’re struggling with PTSD, depression or anxiety, please consult with a mental health care professional who can support you through this process.)

The point is to start by thinking of the ugliest, most painful thoughts and letting that feeling take you over and flow out through your tears, thoughts, and breaths. Once you’ve released that emotion, you can go on with your day. You’ll discover that each wave of emotion, on average,  only lasts 90 seconds.

As you crash through each emotional wave, you’re closer to calmness and serenity. Learning the process of experiencing emotions fully makes life easier. It allows you to experience new emotions without them taking over your whole day. You can get past it without doing damage to yourself or others.

Regaining emotional stability after a crisis is much easier when you have a safe place to be heard and supported. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype). I’d love to help you practice greater awareness and coping techniques.

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