From a long-time Ki Moments subscriber:
Judy - I read your Clear Communication article today. What happens when the other person just isn’t seeing or acknowledging my intent, despite trying multiple ways to state it clearly? What if that person continues to come back in defense no matter how much centering I do? What then? When is it time to just let it go, stop trying and just move on? Are there some conversations that just won’t work no matter? It does take 2, correct?
Sincerely frustrated :O
It Takes Two, Correct?
I hear this question a lot. Workshop participants, Ki Moments subscribers, and coaching clients all want to know: "it takes two, correct?"
I wonder, when we say this, if we are expecting more from the other person than they can give. Usually the impasse means that regardless of our effort, we have gauged our conflict partner as either unmotivated or incapable--of changing, hearing, or learning from the conversation.
This may be true. And it's also possible that it is we who are unmotivated or incapable of changing. Resistance does not cause itself.
You Only Have Power Over You
If "it takes two" means that you are expecting your partner to change, then yes, it does take two. But if you mean "it takes two" to find a resolution, it does not. It only takes one. You can resolve the conflict for yourself, by yourself.
The following alternatives may help you stop pushing and regain power.
#1) Center and Cope
You don't need anyone else in order to be centered and at peace with yourself. You may discover the person you're trying to change is someone you no longer want to spend time with. If you choose to stay in the relationship, find ways to cope.
- Engage in ways that work for you.
- Use the interaction as centering practice.
- Remain purposeful in all your communication.
- Choose an attitude of learning and curiosity.
This is real change--the transformation of you and your thinking and behavior.
#2) Change the Conversation
In Crucial Conversations, the authors suggest that when we get stuck, we are often holding the wrong conversation. Instead of talking about content, shift to process. For example, how we hold our conflict conversations may be the issue, not what we are talking about. Or... if you have had the same conversation multiple times, consider asking: why is it we keep having this conversation? What would resolve this for you?
#3) Give Up
Some of my most memorable learnings from conflict have come when I just stopped trying. I decided to:
- have the kind of relationship the other person wanted instead of the one I wanted;
- surrender my right to be right and let the other have their way;
- give up my need to be heard and just listen.
In all of these instances, I transformed myself so that I became more of myself, not less. I made these choices out of respect, learning, and fascination. They were some of the most powerful moments of my life.
#4) Respect, Interest, Purpose
- After several conversations and promises to improve, a direct report continues to be disrespectful.
- After numerous requests to be prompt, an important team member continues to show up late or not at all.
- Your life partner seems unhappy and angry most of the time but refuses to talk about it.
You can't seem to get through. You can, however:
- Remain respectful, interested, and purposeful.
- Employ your company's performance management system and hold staff accountable.
- Talk to your loved one respectfully about how your relationship is impacted and what the consequences may be if things continue as they are.
What can you do without relying on the other person to change? This is where your power lies. You are no longer asking for behavior change. Instead you're making sure the other person understands the consequences of the road he or she is traveling.
Learning about our relationship to conflict is a journey. And I promise if you continue to practice centering, curiosity and clarity of purpose, your quality of life will improve. You become clearer about what you want for yourself and your life. You also see more clearly where you are getting in your own way. And gradually conflict becomes a teacher.
Conflict is not fun. My own are not fun. And I keep practicing, with each conflict offering the question: "What can I learn here?
I have written other articles on this topic:
What has helped you?
When you find yourself in conflict and all you feel is resistance, what do you do? Please comment below.