Good Things Come to Those Who WAIT!

Here’s a secret! Though I have dedicated my life to learning and teaching Non Violent Communication, I still have conflicts. Yes, it’s true! Conflict is inevitable and they pretty much suck when you’re in the midst of one; however disconnection as a result of conflict IS avoidable. In fact, if done “right” a conflict can actually bring about more connection between people. So that’s a bit of good news.

I start out with this transparency about my own struggles with conflict because I recently had one, and I walked away with a new level of awareness that I’d like to share AND I’d like to remember, especially the next time I’m upset with someone.

The epiphany is this… it’s really never about the other person and it’s truly more about how you choose to think about the situation or the other person. You know that feeling you have inside when you are in the midst of a “fight” with someone? For me it’s kind of a nervous energy, my insides feel like they want to bust out of me while at the same time I feel a tightening and/or closing in of my muscles and limbs - that’s the best I can explain it. Well, the thing I learned in this latest conflict is that when I am feeling that way, it’s a signal to myself that I have work to do – with myself!

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” - Nelson Mandela

So even if all the facts of the situation line up to make you “right” in the eyes of the world – if you are living with that feeling of resentment inside, then the work is on your shoulders. That is, if you want to have peace instead of being “right.” The irony here is that if you work towards that internal peace there will be a natural outcome of being able to communicate with the other in a way that allows you to be heard fully and ultimately connected with each other.

While I’m guessing this makes good intellectual sense to many of you reading this, the bigger question is how do you do the work to get to that internal shift? - And it is work! How can you go from wanting to “scratch someone’s eyes out” to a place of understanding? (Notice, I didn’t say agreement – but understanding.)

Probably the first thing you could do is to WAIT. In NVC, WAIT stands for “Why Am I Talking?” or “What AM I Telling myself?” In other words, when you feel that internal pull to say something to the other person in the midst of upset – don’t. WAIT! Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. – the developer of Non Violent Communication often says “When the emotions are high, the intelligence is low.” So, it’s a good practice to WAIT – usually at the time when it’s the last thing you’d like to do. Sometimes WAIT can last a long time. Please note, it’s usually nice to let the other person know you are not giving the silent treatment or trying to punish him/her – you are just getting connected with yourself in hopes that you can have a productive conversation when the time is right.

In my recent conflict, the WAIT period lasted three weeks. During that time, I actively and painfully worked to get clear on my feelings, needs, and requests. I, also, participated in several explicit processes to help me dismantle my “enemy image” (i.e. resentful feelings) of the other. And I practiced how I wanted the conversation to go. It was a lot of work and a lot of pain. However, even before I had the conversation with the other person, I noticed a settling inside of me – a loosening of the grip of internal sensations mentioned above.

When I finally had a conversation with the other person, I noticed that when she shared with me how she has been feeling and her thoughts about the situation – I was really able to have an open heart and get her.

I should also mention that because of the work that I did during those three weeks, I was clear that I had a need for safety – meaning I didn’t want her to say judgmental things about my character or my behavior. I was able to let her know about my need for safety ahead of time and, that too, helped the conversation go smoothly. I am now in daily conversation with this person and our time together has been very sweet. I have no leftover, hidden feelings/resentments; we worked it all the way through to clear communication and connection. Victory!

Every time I experience a victory like that for myself or for people with whom I work, I have this mental picture of marking one more tally on the side of peace. So, the next time you find yourself in a conflict or just mad as heck about something – notice your internal signs, are they pulling you to do or say something fast and furious? If so, you just might want to WAIT and consider if you’d like to do the work to bring about true peace and connection.

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