From the Harmony Habit Tip Archives (Mar 2011):
“Speak when you’re angry and
you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”
~ Ambrose Bierce
Conflict is a mind-body experience. Just think about it. The last time you experienced a challenge with someone, you most likely had a corresponding physiological response. You might not have been aware of it, yet every time our brain perceives something or someone as threatening – whether it’s real or imagined – our body gears up to take action. Our heart rate increases, our pulse rate quickens, free fatty acids pour into our bloodstream and our muscles tense up.
What’s happening is that our body wants to fight or flee! It’s an automatic, primitive response to conflict… and it’s not very comfortable!
If we want to create harmony, we have to learn to override our automatic reactions and instinctual impulses. We can do this by learning to connect with something larger or greater than the conflict itself (i.e. a higher intelligence that can keep us from getting caught up in the conflict). If we don’t, we might find ourselves on auto-pilot, heading in a direction we never intended to go, saying things we may very well regret later on. We’ve all been there and done that. It’s not pretty.
Our breath can help us relate to conflict differently. By consciously focusing on our breath, we can break the automatic link between our emotions and our reaction to the conflict. This will prevent us from an emotional hijacking and help keep our wits about ourselves (which by the way are very much needed if our intention is to preserve our relationships and cultivate harmony)!
This week’s practice:
The next time you’re faced with a difficult situation, notice your “stress cues”. Is your heart beating rapidly, are your muscles tensing up, is your face getting red? Make a commitment to pause as soon as you can and notice these signals. The simple act of diverting your attention away from your thoughts and towards your breath will help you become more grounded, open and receptive and more likely to choose a response that is in line with your values. It’s even ok to say to someone “Hey, can we slow this down a bit? I need to catch my breath.”
If you value peace and harmony, when you feel yourself getting upset stop and breathe. I promise you this will help you switch gears. That’s one of the first steps towards becoming a peacemaker.
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