Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Restore Personal Peacefulness

In a People Skills class, a participant asked, “How can you work with someone if your values don’t match theirs?”

This is a situation that can engender a lot of conflict, whether it is out in the open or not. You may have internal stress and tension when trying to reconcile the fact that your values differ yet you need to work together. (Or, spend the holidays together.)

It’s helpful to step back, take a breath, and consider: Is it in fact your values that are different or how your values are played out? Or do you hold the same value but prioritize it differently? Then search for where you have common ground. Find that common ground, appreciate that there is any, and remark upon it out loud - to yourself, to others, to the other party involved.

This is where change happens: when you give up resisting what you perceive to be against you and your values, and focus instead on where there is agreement, where there is no tension, and where there are commonalities. Start from there, and as you focus in on the common ground, build on it. Spend as much time thinking about those commonalities as you did the differences that irritated you. Then spend more time on it.

The amount of common ground will expand, and if you acknowledge it, will start to include positive differences – differences that you can appreciate. You will find ways to communicate with that person from a new perspective, rather than from the perspective that causes you tension. Resistance only gives birth to continued resistance. If you focus only on the parts of someone that you dislike, even more examples and reasons to dislike the person will occur to you. There is no peace, no resolution from this perspective.

In People Skills we teach that if you push on someone’s behavior, they will naturally push back. If, however, you focus on changing perceptions and beliefs, behavior will change naturally. If your perceptions and beliefs about a person or situation are causing you stress and conflict, start with yourself. A change in your own perception or belief can dissolve or at the least, reduce, the resistance you feel about someone else. It will allow you to approach the person with a positive attitude, which will prevent the other party from getting defensive. And once you put someone on the defensive, all communication breaks down.

The next time you are faced with a dilemma or conflict over values, move toward common ground with that individual and your working relationship will become less work and more peaceful.

Wishing you peace during this holiday season!

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