One of the strengths of a Fierce Gentleman is his ability to resolve conflict.
In a violent world, in which many people have a lot of skill in wielding violence to resolve conflicts, we must strive to be competent in non-violence.
We know that applying violence to resolve conflicts only leads to more problems over time, so we use non-violent tools that solve conflicts — and keep them solved.
Below, we discuss conflict resolution – – both in-the-moment, and in the long term.
THE SHORT TERM:
DEALING WITH CONFLICT IN THE MOMENT
The most important thing is to not ‘drink the cup of acid’ as the Buddhist would say.
The Buddhists compare getting angry to drinking a cup of acid. Imagine what would happen to your lips, tongue, throat and stomach if you actually took a sip from a cup of sulfuric acid.
Not good, right?
Now there’s a reason why the Buddhists chose that painfully vivid metaphor — it’s because anger really is deeply destructive to our psyche, our mind, our emotions, and our future.
Just because it’s not as visibly and immediately apparent as drinking a cup of acid doesn’t mean the anger is just as real.
Even if you are very rich, if you have anger, you are a prisoner of a bad future. (Tweet this.)
What you must do then is develop very finely your ability to self-monitor, and realize the precursors to anger when they arise. You want to be able to “head them off at the pass” before they come to the surface. You can use deep breathing to help do this.
This is important to do because any spark of anger that you allow to blossom into your reality will then create impressions of anger in your body, and those impressions will go deep and arise later causing you to see things that will make you even more angry in the future.
You are watering the plant of anger that has blossomed. If you want more anger in your life, by all means, water the plant! But if you don’t want anger, cut it off before it blossom and stop watering it.
We all have the seeds of anger in us. It’s just a matter of whether or not we water them and encourage them to bloom.
So, when there is conflict in the moment, I encourage you to keep in mind the following ideas:
- Nothing anyone else does is because of you. Don’t take it personally.
- Everyone else is living their own dream. It’s not an attempt to hurt you; it’s just their own dream. You don’t need to get sucked into their dream. (Carlos Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements.)
- Someone else loves this person. Even if you despise them, even if they are someone you feel disgust and revulsion towards, someone — maybe their father or mother, a sister or lover — finds them the most wonderful person on earth. So there is another way to look at them. Reminding yourself of this plants the seed of compassion.
- Getting angry and spitting poison or insults at somebody else will only injure you. Either they will react badly and try to get revenge at some point in the future, or they will be more conscious than you and ignore it, and your bad feelings will only hurt yourself. It is as the Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga says: “Hatred….is throwing cow dung at another. First you dirty your own hands, then you try to dirty another.” And the AA tradition has a saying: “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”
If you can keep these things in mind, breath deeply, and avoid anger, you will do very well in moment-to-moment conflict negotiation.
A Tibetan Buddhist doctor, who was imprisoned by the Chinese invaders in the 1950s, was in jail for 20 years. When he got out, and went back to practicing medicine in a small town in Tibet, he was asked what his biggest moment of danger was in those Chinese prison camps — with the torture, the hard physical labor, the illness all around, the brainwashing.
And the doctor said, “My biggest moment of danger was when I came close to losing compassion for the prison guards.”
Now, let’s take this further: let’s look at the long-term picture, and how we can avoid ever seeing the seeds of conflict even arise in our day-to-day experience.
THE GOLDEN PATH:
CONFLICT RESOLUTION FOR THE LONG TERM
I can this way the “Golden Path” because it suggests that we walk easily along a path lined with benefits.
This is what happens when you take full responsibility for creating a life of non-violence.
When I started using this method, here is what happened in my professional life:
- The “prickliest” people I had to work with became some of the people I enjoyed working with the MOST. Those that didn’t change were reassigned to work elsewhere.
- I went from having the worst boss I’d ever had, to the best boss I’d ever had. Complete micro-management to complete autonomy.
- Every problem that was brought to me seemed to resolve itself at my fingertips, with a minimum of effort.
- Every project I was assigned, I was able to deliver before deadline, under budget, and at a higher quality level than I had originally anticipated.
- My co-workers became much more effusive in their praise of my work.
- My experience of going to work was one totally devoid of stress, and instead was full of easeful accomplishment.
- Work stopped feeling like work.
- As a big bonus — I was able to guide my coworkers into better relationships with each other. This also required minimal effort on my part. The words to say came to me naturally. (This was my favorite part of my work at this point.) It seemed like the most important work I did each day.
All those results were not merely the result of planting seeds of non-violence, but were also the flowering of many other seeds I have planted over the course of the past 5 years. Even so, non-violence had a large part to play in those results.
What could you do with similar results in your own life and business?
I bet you could do a lot.
Are you willing to do what it takes to get these results?
Luckily, it’s pretty simple. You just have to be willing to do one thing differently.
You have to do what the Buddhists call “exchanging self and others.”
You have to learn to see the world out of somebody else’s eyes. What is it that they really and truly want?
You have to dive deep into that.
Then, you have to do your best to give it to them.
No cheating or shortcuts work here, by the way: you certainly can’t just ask them what they want. No, you’ll have to focus on it and ponder it until you understand them better than they understand themselves.
In an intimate relationship, for example, this makes it tough: you can’t just say, “Honey, what do you want most in all the world?”
Because they’ll probably reply, “Um. . . I dunno. Ice cream?” And then you’ll fetch some Cherry Garcia that’ll be the end of that conversation.
No, you have to think deeply about it….long and hard. You might even ask other people who know the person well what they think this person wants. Compare notes, and create a psychological profile, in your own mind.
Then you have to give them what you think they most deeply want, and watch very carefully their reaction, and then revise your understanding based on that.
At a simple level, this is knowing — and remembering! — whether people like cream or sugar in their coffee (or nothing). Then you can prepare coffee for them the way they like it. Or order them the wine they like. Or bring them their favorite flowers. Or take the part of the project that you know they abhor.
What happens when you do this consistently, over a period of months or years, in any organization?
I’ll tell you what happened to me: you create value with everyone you interact with. Everyone notices that you notice them, and everyone understands that you’re genuinely trying to help them get what they want, and before too long….everyone is playing on your team.
This is what makes your work so easy. Your problem solving and fulfillment for others also plants powerful karmic seeds that manifest as your work being easier to excel at than ever before. You get the help and resources you need. You get the choice assignments you want. You find fulfillment in even the small tasks. You gain amazing powers of conflict-resolution…because you know nobody truly wants to be in conflict with each other. You become infinitely valuable to your organization.
Congratulations — now you are on a virtuous upward spiral. As your work gets easier and more pleasant, you enjoy it more, and that makes it even easier to focus on helping others get what they really want. You become a go-to mentor in your organization, guiding personnel gently into their area of greatest contribution. You become an unofficial “leader” in the organization, and people begin pulling for you powerfully, both in public and behind the scenes. Now you are really playing a game worth playing! You are not going to even be tempted to get mad at anyone in this state — it would be like Superman getting mad at a human. When you’re playing a fundamentally different game, there’s no need for you to ever be afraid or feel threatened.
As a benefit — you are really insulated from bad events! If the company goes under, a senior VP is going to take you into his new organization. If the company grows, you are going to get a bigger slice of the pie. If the company gets sold, you will find a great new place in the new organization. Your network becomes ironclad — if you ever leave a job or even leave a HINT that you’re a free agent, your network comes out of the woodwork with multiple job offers.
This may sound too good to be true, but it is true and very, very possible. I’ve seen it happen to people, and it has happened to me.
All you have to do is focus on others, perceive them, look deeply into them, and strive to give them what they want. And you have to continue doing this for months and years, without letting up.
This also works well in romantic relationships, by the way….but that is a topic for a different article.
NOTE: for a gentleman interested in non-violent communication, I would highly recommend the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg.
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Also published on Medium.