From Avoiding Conflict to Fighting Fair

I don’t know about you but I love a good argument. I am always down to figure out difficult solutions, accept disagreements, try to understand obtuse ideas, far out perspectives and extreme scenarios of any kind. Within reason of course.

I like to freely air out grievances, get things off my chest. I think this is very healthy for growth. 

I love to assert my ideas and defend my perspectives, guard my values and principles. But when it comes down to the hard uncomfortable real life confrontations, I seem to always do a playback of what was said. I find that the difficult conversations that we have with people bring so much more than just words. The adrenaline rush that comes with fighting, always finds its way to my throat first before reason, or kind words. Over the years I have sharpened my communication skills as opposed to my tongue, to navigate fair fights with the people in my life. 

In any scenario it is always good to have some tools in your pocket to help you get through a fight in a fair way. Strong unwanted words cannot be unsaid and the bad vibes that linger, stay until a new secure relationship takes its place post battle. Unwanted, strong harsh words and feelings are exhausting, damaging and easily avoided. 

Here are some tools for fighting fair: 

Set the Stage 

If you confront someone or if someone confronts you, either unexpectedly or planned, be prepared to set some ground rules. These could include, no swearing, no yelling, no name-calling or whatever you need to make you feel safe and calm. 

Also pick a place to fight. Ask the person to meet you in a spot that makes you feel calm and safe. If you are confronted immediately step back and ask to postpone the meeting for some other time. If this is not possible, visualize a calm safe space, this will take you out of your fight/flight mode and help you tap into your reasoning brain, which will help you communicate more effectively. 

I like to talk hard uncomfortable stuff in nature, a walk in the park or just out on my front porch. I find it calming and a very neutral space for all that hard energy to dissipate. But if that is not an option, try a space that you have been before that makes you feel good, a coffee shop, a certain room in your house or even an area in a building, like a lobby. The calmer and safer the space the better your mind will react to strong emotions. 

Express your Needs and Negotiate Solutions 

In a perfect world my fights would always end with me as the winner. I like to right fight. I would beat my chest and say, “I told you so!” for all the world to hear, periodically through the day to boost my mood and ego. Ok, STOP! That’s nonsense, because we all know that we grow from change and that change also includes having difficult conversations with people and that doesn’t include being right or winning an argument.

Some of my biggest growth spurts came from serious fights with family members, co-workers, bosses and boyfriends. The raw emotion that travels through a confrontation has a powerful way to rewire our brains, perspective and to allow us to get to the next level of maturity. In all this raw emotion though you have to find strength to  express your needs and cannot lose your sense of dignity, integrity and respect for the other person. 

Sometimes our confrontations happen organically with people not from anything we have done but simply because others are not allowing you to grow. You need to know how to express your needs and negotiate solutions during and post confrontations. You need to establish what you need for yourself as you grow and communicate this to people. Nobody can read your mind. Building healthy boundaries is key to navigating a fair fight, because then you know what your breaking point is and what your limitations are. You need to express these limitations explicitly, so that solutions can be tailored to your specific personality needs and that all parties experience a sense of fairness. 

Know When to Walk Away

All confrontations are worth exploring, even if it is just for personal growth. But some fights are not worth it. Sometimes you just need to walk  away. 

In the book Mastery by Robert Greene the chapter, Suffer fools gladly Greene illustrates how sometimes it is not worth your energy to entertain a difficult relationship with people who have foolish personalities and make cooperation impossible. He gives a description of a fool as a person that is money grabbing, obsessed with their public image, has short term thinking, ego driven, ruled by insecurities and gets little done to name a few. Greene advises, “if they are causing you trouble, you must neutralize the harm they do by keeping a steady eye on your goals and what is important, and ignoring them if you can.” – (Mastery Robert Greene) Sometimes we all act a fool, and giving people the benefit of the doubt should come first before walking away. But, when it is impossible to entice your opponent to a fair fight due to their innate difficult personality then it is worth the walk, because a dirty fight always leaves the deepest scars that take the longest to heal. 

Fight often. 

Fight Fair. 

Grow. 

How Do you Know the Things you Know?

Do you ever get the feeling you know something just because you feel like you know?

You think or see something and you automatically have a strong feeling of familiarity about it. It could be a person, a place, something you read or something someone has said to you.

Like you have been there before, or the thing that you heard you keep hearing it everywhere.

You tell yourself you don’t know how you know… but you know!

I always want to believe that what I am told is what someone actually means and that their intentions are aligned with their actions, but I know that isn’t always the case because people lie to themselves and also to others. So, how do you determine how you feel about someone if you can’t take their word for it? Can intuition guide you to proper knowing?

I read about intuition and have always tried tapping into it. But really I don’t know what I’m looking for or what I should be feeling. My guess of what intuition is, is that if it doesn’t feel right, to fight or flight. That is my basic understanding of intuition. As my self development journey deepened, I realized most of what I knew was because I experienced these situations/people before. I was becoming aware of my patterns and they all seemed so familiar. The familiarity made it feel like I knew things without real knowing.

I think when you think you know something it could be that you are recognizing a pattern.

But, it could also be misleading breeding ignorance planting seeds of arrogance. Even though I think I know quite a bit through learned experiences, travel and even my education, there is also so much unknown that I reject just simply because I think I know.

I recently read the book The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel. It is a parenting book that describes what happens to the brain when emotional areas and logical reasoning are disintegrated. The book presents simple techniques to help children manage big emotions and make better decisions by integrating the various parts of the brain. The book also highlights that the experiences we have wire our brain structure. One of the techniques that Dr Siegel uses is called “name it to tame it.” In this strategy the child would retell an upsetting event in his/her own words, and this takes the event from a completely emotional, experience-based memory and applies order to the experience. The child’s perspective is changed and the event is approached more logically.

I wonder how many of my knowing’s come from upsetting events that haven’t been properly processed to make logical sense, and now those feelings are driving a skewed intuition.

Along my alcohol-free journey, I started integrating my logical and emotional brain by looking at some of the narrative that I replay in my head. As I rewrite some of the stories, I’ve realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.

I still have so much more to learn and so much to make sense of.

There is so much going on in our brains when we try to convince ourselves of something that we know. Bias, hunger, mood, the weather, hormones, sleep, past experiences, the conditioning of an education system, memory retention, pain and so much more contributes to our perception of knowing. Next time you think you know something without knowing why or how, ask yourself to rewind the scenario and tease out why you might feel, think that way and you might get a different answer. 

Check your story, think before you know. 

Living in Black and White

Perspective is one word I always incorporated in my toolbox to stay healthy. However, I have to admit that my default thinking is in black and white. This is a work in progress. I do travel down the road of all or nothing, yes or no, good or bad and I like this, or I don’t like that. A lot of this thinking comes from my need for comfort and familiarity. My safe space determines if I have decided emphatically that something is for me or against me. This has not worked for me in the past and still continues to cause me frustration today, so I remind myself to step into the gray whenever this thinking creeps into my headspace. 

Expectations of situations have a lot to do with how I think about situations as they unfold. Before I give anything, a person, a place a chance I determine if I like it, it is good, what I expect from it and the thoughts and criticisms trail on. I label it, I box it and store it away. With this type of thinking I miss the opportunity to truly accept things for what they are. I miss the point completely and don’t see clearly until many months or even years later I reach an “Aha!” moment and true perspective erupts on its own with time and experience. Although I appreciate my experiences and embrace learning over time, the slow momentum of seeing truth in situations and people started bothering me. I needed another way. 

I don’t really think that there are any easy solutions to growing your perspective to achieve a favorable or more clear view, but for me travel did help. I travelled and lived in Argentina for a while and this encouraged deep listening. I didn’t understand Spanish fluently, so I leaned on listening to body language, reading emotions from faces, and once language started sitting a little better with me, stories of different local people. The vibrant culture of Argentinians penetrated my closed mind and I was forced to take on different perspectives. When I build perspective today, I step into a different space by truly listening. Listening without necessarily responding in an instant is something I think today is underrated and a tool that is not practiced enough. Taking everything in and sitting with it for a moment is remarkable. When I listen to myself, the environment and people I drop the labels and stop categorizing putting things in a proper viewpoint.

Living in black and white is kind of like living in a maze. In the words of Margaret Atwood, “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.” (Atwood et al. The Handmaid’s Tale) The maze is a closed mind and it doesn’t have any alternative paths or avenues for thoughts. Today, I embrace the unknown, I listen and keep an open mind no matter the landscape. I practice compassion before I take out the boxes to label and store away with judgment and finality. I try to tease out all possible standpoints and go where the situation or person leads me because after all, what I create to be my truth is not necessarily what is. I have the power to discern the truth but only when I start to paint my point of view with a little more color. 

Taking things personally

Emotional intelligence is learned over time.

When I started my self care journey, I started noticing some character traits about myself that I haven’t paid attention to before, like being a very serious person. Taking things personally at every turn. I felt like everything was an attack on me.

So I explored this further by asking myself why my life was so self-centric. I realized I wasn’t really of service to anyone or the community. I was just for me only for me. Until about the age of 24 my ego was enormous. Alcohol inflated it. Many of my relationships, prior to quitting drinking were very one sided, and superficial. I didn’t allow true vulnerability to get in the way of my fun. The lack of honesty with myself and compassion for other people did not contribute to any healthy relationships. So I had scarce relationships even less healthy ones at that. This made me defensive about the way I treated people and the way people treated me. I really didn’t know why I was taking things personally, but it was definitely due to a lack of self awareness.

I wanted to change, so I joined a non-profit that provides local art platforms for underprivileged youth. I met a wonderful woman who herself has faced adversity in her own life, overcame these challenges and started a non-profit to give back to the community she was able to heal her own past at the same time. It was a beautiful cycle of reciprocity. I knew then that this was my way of stepping out of my head and allowed myself to be of service and dropped the ego. It was hard for me to see how self interested I was until I started volunteering. Even today I sometimes need a reality check and sit in gratitude rather than throw myself a pity party.

With volunteering I started stepping out of my defensive mode and became more aware of the vulnerability of myself by allowing others to show me their stories. I listened, I related and understood that with listening and not imposing myself on the world I opened up a space in me for other people. I became less judgemental, I took things less personally. I became less heavy and less serious.

If you think you need an ego check or feel like you take things too personally, try volunteering or being of service to someone for a day. To help and service the community allowed me to listen with no judgment and helped me to listen through an open vessel that I didn’t tap into before. Sometimes we all need to do something for each other unconditionally and in turn this helps us do for ourselves without judgement and criticism. I think this is a win-win situation.