Angry, annoyed, triggered? How to navigate conflicts mindfully

26. February 2023

As an empath I have long shied away from confrontation and conflicts. I was afraid of not being able to offer valuable arguments, to express myself authentically and of uncomfortable emotions coming up. Eventually I did understand though that if we avoid conflict, we avoid showing up as US in the world and might even be treated like a doormat by others. Moreover, conflict holds big potential for connection and belonging.

I’m so happy that mindfulness and meditation philosophy and practices have offered myself a way to see conflict as something neutral, if not positive, and today I would like to share the main tools I use with you. This list is inspired by Yung Pueblo, who is one of my favorite writers of all time.

Here are they key things to keep in mind when conflict arises:

Listen to understand
You each have your own perspective on the matter and each of those deserve to be listened to. It’s important to create space for each one to talk without being interrupted. This gives opportunity to fully understand the other one, no matter how unreasonable it seems to us. They key here is to practice patience by listening with presence each, before you can move forward having a discussion or looking for a solution.
Mindful Listening exercise: Set a timer for 10 minutes each. During this time you get uninterrupted attention and can explain yourself. Make sure you both get the same space.

Keep your ego out
You ego will play big when the other person shares their perspective. The practice here is to intentionally focus your awareness on their words, instead of your interpretations or your response. Put yourself into their position and find compassion.

Be “mindfully” honest
Don’t sugarcoat, but instead share how you really feel. Many people are afraid of honesty, yet forget that it brings us closer together. It is important though to think about what we say and how we say it, finding a good balance between really expressing ourselves and not intending to hurt the other one. Always talk from your perspective and how you felt, without blaming or giving away responsibility.

Distinguish between facts & stories
When sharing your perspectives it is helpful to use the words “the story I create in my mind about this is…”. For instance, if someone was late to a meeting and you felt not appreciated, you can say “when you are late to meetings, the story in my mind is that you don’t value me.” The fact is, they arrived late, the story is your interpretation of the meaning of it.

See the other one as part of your team
Our egos love to create separation and thus when we go into conflict, we quickly see the other one as the biggest opponent or enemy. This just creates more conflict. Even when you are very angry, remember that the person in front of you is also a human being with their own struggles, who wants to be happy.

Try to understand, not win
“Do you want to be right or be happy?” I am sure you heard this sentence before and it is so true. While it is important to hold other people accountable for their words and actions, if we approach conflict wanting to win, we are actually losing. Rather make the goal being more connected to the other person. You achieve this by listening, explaining mindfully your position and become vulnerable.

Let it go
How many old conflicts are you still carrying around with you? We often get attached to things that someone said or did days, months or years ago. Does this help us? No! Check in with yourself if there are leftover resentments and emotions that only poison yourself from the inside. Remember the love or respect you once felt for the other person and try to let whatever happened go.