Tell me how not to be angry.
A friend asked me to help him recently. He was having a conflict with a difficult person in his life. When this person did certain things, my friend would get angry and react. He made statements and took actions that weren't in keeping with who he was and wanted to be. We talked for quite a while and I made some suggestions. I was clear that I couldn't do what he'd asked: I couldn't tell him how not to be angry.
Emotions happen. Emotions just are. It's the next step--what we do with that emotional energy--that determines whether we attack, repress, or connect. When uncentered, we're likely to let the emotion drive our actions. When emotions are the driver, usually one of two things happens.
- Option 1: We say or do something aggressive or belligerent.
- Option 2: We repress, shut down, pretend it's okay when it isn't and likely become passive agressive--complain, gossip, snipe, or worse.
The Third Option
I often call the Aikido metaphor the 3rd option. Aikido offers a way out of the win-lose, push-pushback, right-wrong conflict game. By stepping aside, you gain time and perspective. By noticing you're about to react and taking a moment to center, you develop the habit of looking before you leap. And you have many more options now. Let it go. Speak to the person. Do some inner reflection. Ask a question.
As the holidays approach, there will probably be many opportunities for this kind of self-reflection and conflict resolution with family, friends, and others we work with and love. I recently read a helpful step-by-step article on reconciling conflict with family before sitting down at the holiday table. I suggest you read the entire article--"How to Repair Family Relations During the Holidays,"--from the Wall Street Journal, but here are the steps to get you started:
- Send a card -- reach out.
- Meet somewhere neutral to talk.
- Stick to small talk--build rapport and common ground.
- Apologize--acknowledge the difficulty and your contribution.
- Ask how they see things.
- Come up with a plan--where do you go from here?
I especially appreciated the author saying you must start with yourself in order to break the pattern. And she puts forward an interesting concept called "deceptive affection" that resonated. I prefer to call it pretending with a purpose, but let me know what you think.
I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a holiday season filled with laughter, love, and reconciliation.