“Now before going to a party, I just tell myself to listen with affection to anyone who talks to me, to be in their shoes when they talk, to try to know them without my mind pressing against theirs, or arguing, or changing the subject. No. My attitude is: ‘Tell me more.’ This person is showing me his soul. It is a little dry and meager and full of grinding talk just now, but presently he will begin to think, not just automatically to talk. He will show his true self. Then he will be wonderfully alive.’ …Creative listeners are those who want you to be recklessly yourself, even at your very worst, even vituperative, bad-tempered. They are laughing and just delighted with any manifestation of yourself, bad or good. For true listeners know that if you are bad-tempered it does not mean that you are always so. They don’t love you just when you are nice; they love all of you.”
When we are in conflict, listening to each other is extremely difficult and it is the absolute one most important thing we can do. Even when you hear things that are ugly and mean and hurtful, if you keep listening you might find that the other person calms down and then might eventually be able to listen to you in return. Truly listening while in conflict takes practice. TRY LISTENING LIKE YOU ARE LISTENING TO MUSIC that you don’t like very well! Learn something new about someone’s perspective. Stay open and try to observe the situation from the outside to help you from taking things personally. You will be amazed at the progress of the conversation when you concentrate on listening.
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
In our deepest despair, when conflict and sadness and anger and confusion overwhelm us, hope for the future can be hard to access. Remember that this is just one moment in time. Have faith that there is something ahead that will help things progress, bring about change, and lighten the day. It is fine to merely sit with that faith and not worry so much about how it might occur. It will occur. Big changes often happen in baby steps, so they are hard to recognize.
I have found it useful, in dark moments, to literally put a tiny smile on my face. I am not feeling it; it is just a physical change. It is interesting that this slight change of turning up the corners of my mouth affects my attitude. It allows me to feel a little hope and slightly change my attitude, which is about all I can control. Baby steps – even towards faith.
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.
Sometimes after people spend a good amount of time truly listening to each other, they find that they calm down and they are able to look around at the world around them. They discover that who was right and who was wrong are much less important than how they were treated and how they felt. Letting go of right and wrong becomes easier when we practice listening to each other. Deep listening is a skill that can be developed over time. We learn to speak as children, but as adults it is the listening that changes and improves the quality of our conversations.
“RESENTMENT IS LIKE DRINKING POISON AND WAITING FOR THE OTHER PERSON TO DIE.”
Talking about getting rid of resentments and bitterness is easy to say, but very hard to do. How do you get rid of resentment and anger if that is what you are feeling? We know intellectually that anger adds stress to our lives and that stress is hard on us emotionally and physically. But doing something about resentment takes a lot of work.
A first step might be to notice any physical symptoms that you have. Are you suffering with stomach aches, indigestion, headaches, losing sleep, or ?? If so, the idea of living symptom-free can be a good motivator to help us accept other people’s humanness in exchange for better health and productivity. This is a first step, of course.
The next step towards relieving yourself of resentment is to think about the person you are resenting and try to understand their motivation for their behavior. Understanding someone else’s perspective is key to humanizing them. While you don’t like what they did, perhaps you can understand that they are imperfect and dealing from their own difficulties and damage which likely have little or nothing to do with you. This is the beginning to seeing the person as a whole person, not just as the unwanted behavior.
Another step might be to ask yourself why this person’s behavior affects you so greatly. How can you make the behavior matter less? What is it about you that makes you take in their behavior in so deeply?
Oh! And have you ever tried talking directly to the person about it? It’s surprising how much relief one can feel from having a good talk and it’s shocking how many resentments go undiscussed.
(The above quote has been attributed to many people, most notably Nelson Mandela, Carrie Fisher, and Malachy McCourt.)
Working through an emotionally-charged conversation is never easy. But we learn that we can come to the conversation as a whole person, using not only our intelligence and our emotions, but also our heart. Try keeping your heart open to new possibilities, listening for new information, and listening for things that do not already fit your preconceived idea of what someone thinks or feels. This is extremely difficult and gets easier with practice. When you notice yourself sliding into judgment, clear your mind and start over again. We’re human. Give yourself credit for trying and then try again.
Difficulty comes with other unforseen changes, usually some of them are silver linings, and often they surprise us.
Conflict works this way. Conflict isn’t something we look forward to, but there are many benefits that we otherwise wouldn’t know.
One of the best things about conflict is that we learn new things about someone (including ourselves) and, if we’re going to work through the conflict, it forces us to deepen our relationships. There are many, many potential benefits to conflict. That’s why we should WELCOME CONFLICT.
Contact a mediator in your area. The mediator directory on the NADN website is a great place to begin your search: