Resolve Conflict Like a Buddhist Monk

There’s a way to resolve conflict in any area of your life.

This technique not only resolves conflict, it also gets you more at the negotiating table . . . in love . . .makes your work day easier.  . . and the proverbial more.

This is a technique I learned from a Buddhist monk named Jampa.

When I started doing this at my last job, the results were immediate & astounding.

Within 3 months, I had experienced the following complete shifts in my daily experience at work:

Do you want to be able to resolve conflict like this guy? I bet you do.
Jampa of Sera May Monastery. Image by Michael Monteiro
  1. Personality conflicts with all the prickliest people I had to deal with at work resolved. They become some of the people I enjoyed working with the most, or they were reassigned to work elsewhere.
  2. My reporting relationship to my direct supervisor changed from the worst I’d ever experienced to the best I’d ever experienced.
  3. Every question that was brought to me seemed to resolve itself at my fingertips, with a minimum of effort.
  4. Every project I was assigned was deliverable before deadline, under budget, and at a higher quality level than I had originally anticipated.
  5. My co-workers became much more effusive in their praise of my products.
  6. Overall, my experience of going to work was one totally devoid of stress, but instead was full of easeful accomplishment.
  7. Overall, my experience of going to work became devoid of any actual ‘work.’
  8. I was able to gently 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.)

What could you do with similar results in your own life?

Luckily, you don’t have to renounce the world or move to a monastery to get these results.

You just have to do one thing different.

How to Resolve Conflict . . .Like a Buddhist

Allow me to share the story of Jampa of Sera Mey monastery, as told in The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business & Your Life: 

Jampa was trained at our home monastery of Sera Mey, now relocated in India after the invasion of Tibet, and he was trained by some of the best — by two high Lamas named Geshe Lothar and Geshe Thupten Tenzin. The minute you step in he has you down on a chair at the kitchen table, and he’s puttering around the stove and the refrigerator to prepare you something to drink or snack on as you describe why you’re visiting the monastery. While he walks around the room he watches your eyes and your body language. As your eyes scan the room, do they stop and reset on the kettle on the stove, or do they hesitate at the refrigerator when he reaches for the handle. . . there’s a bowl of candy on the kitchen table, and a plate of cookies farther down, and the perpetual pot of soup on the stove– which one do your eyes come back to most often?

Within a few minutes, Jampa has figured you out completely: he knows whether you like tea or coffee, hot or cold, milk or sugar or not, cookies or crackers or noodles, and a dozen other details about your likes and dislikes. The next time you show up, you’ll find your favorite beverage on the table before you say anything, because he remembers — he makes it a point to remember. And he makes it a point to remember because he really wants to give you what you want.

Now, you might say: this is fine for a monk, who has as part of his duties hospitality to visitors, but what has this got to do with me?

(Also, doesn’t this make me a huge pushover, a doormat for people to walk all over?)

The answer is: No. Not if you do it from a position of strength and not weakness.

Let me outline the difference:

You’re not doing nice things for others because you want something from them.

You’re doing nice things for others because you really want to give them what they want.

It’s nothing to do with you. It’s everything to do with them.

Putting others first in this way requires a few skills.

  1. A finely honed attention to detail (which you probably have, if you’ve followed the 30 day plan to freedom from social anxiety)
  2. An ability to think about other people first, before you think about your own wants. It requires you to change your mind about who comes first in the world: you, or them?

I have insight into this process because, for most of my life, I have been thoroughly self-centered (haven’t we all?)

Then, at a certain point in my late 20’s, I began having these belated thoughts during social interactions, like:

Oh, what do they want to talk about now?

and

I think she’d like it if I paid for her coffee

or

Oh, I can imagine how that sounded to her. I should re-phrase that.

It took deliberate effort, but I was able to gradually retrain my mind to be first just a little bit other-focused, and then more evenly balanced.

I am still in the process of becoming more and more attentive to others, and look forward to the day when I can reach a level of sensitivity and responsiveness similar to Jampa.

What happens when you learn to notice what other people want, and then give it to them, is that they become happier. They are impressed with you, they remember you, and they sometimes feel indebted to you, just for the simple action you took of paying attention to their likes and preferences.

This has a whole cascade of good impacts in business, in life, and in relationships.

But you shouldn’t do it because it will produce better results for you.

You are doing it because you have genuinely begun to dissolve the barriers between yourself and other people, & you are beginning to feel that their happiness is your happiness, and their pain is your pain.

Speaking of relationships, I definitely think it is easier to start doing this at work or in casual relationships and friendships than in an intimate relationship.

In an intimate relationship, you certainly know the person better, but in my experience, there are many more habitual barriers to overcome.

Plus, you face the resistance of your ego, which says, “I don’t have to change for anybody” and wants this person to “love you for you” without any effort to pander to their wants & needs.

Of course, this “Jampa method” isn’t about pandering and pleasing. It’s about really getting your partner, on a very deep level, and understanding what they want, maybe even at a deeper level than they do. (And that’s one of the big reasons why you can’t simply ask them, “Honey, what do you want most in all the world?”  Because they’ll often respond with, “Um.  . . I dunno. Could you bring me some ice cream?” And then you’ll fetch some Cherry Garcia that’ll be the end of that conversation.)

If you become a keen enough observer of human psychology and human nature — and this takes years, but is so worth it! — you can feel into your partner at a deep level and understand their desires fundamentally, which allows you to magnify even more love & freedom into their lives.

(This is made somewhat easier by the fact that, at root, all humans have a very similar set of bedrock desires: to be accepted, to be held, to have love, to have freedom.)

Once you understand your partner on this deep level, you can set about providing for those needs as best you can, based on your knowledge of what you can give for this person that nobody else can. . . in other words, you are going to understanding your own unique gift to them better, and be satisfied in giving them that.

And that, my friends, is a wonderful gift to give.

Image by Michael Monteiro

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Also published on Medium.

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