The holidays are here again! For many this means more time with family, which can be lots of fun. I can also be stressful, sprinkled with conflict.
This can therefore be a great time to practice a positive, welcoming response to conflict, and mine the gold that every conflict holds.
If this seems far-fetched to you, more fantasy than possibility, you’re not alone. Most people are afraid of conflict, dissatisfied with the way they handle conflict, and anxious even thinking about it.
The fact is that most of us don’t know what to do with conflict. Past experiences have led us to believe that conflict is dangerous, and that engaging with it will make things worse. With this belief, it makes sense to try to avoid conflict, sweep it under the rug, change the subject. However, trying to avoid conflict does not make it go away. Most often, feelings intensify, resentments build and the same or bigger conflict resurfaces.
The good news is that we can change the way we think about and work with conflict so that it informs instead of inflames. We can use the principles of NVC and “go for the gold” by discovering the life-serving needs at the core of every conflict. In the process, we can forge stronger bonds of trust and understanding in our families and in all our relations.
If you don’t like how you have handled conflict in the past, becoming aware of your habitual responses is a place to begin the change.
Change your game: from the Blame Game to The No-Fault Game
One habitual response to conflict that predictably inflames and perpetuates conflict is finding fault and blaming.
When someone says to you: “It’s your fault,” how do you feel?
How do you feel when you’re the one blaming others? How do you feel? Do your jaws clench, stomach tighten? Next time you hear yourself blaming someone, notice how your body reacts. Your body will tell you what game you’re playing.
You can shift from blaming, by noticing when it happens, and taking a break from what’s going on in your head to take some deep breaths, letting your jaw, stomach, shoulders relax.
Then, you can try switching your focus from fault-finding and blaming, to looking through a no-fault lens, to see the needs.
A no-fault lens is supported by the Nonviolent Communication® premise that all behavior is motivated by vital human needs. Needs that are frequently present in conflict are: understanding, respect, safety, trust, consideration, support, autonomy, and play. Looking through the no-fault lens, you can see more clearly what is most important to you and to others.
What does this look like?
When I’m frustrated finding myself doing the housework alone, I can make a choice to play the blame game: blame the others, as “lazy” or “inconsiderate” when they are doing something other than helping around the house. See how that feels, and where it leads.
Or I can choose to play the No-Fault Game: Notice any judgments, breathe, and connect with the Needs stirring in me: help, support, companionship. Then, I can guess the needs they might be meeting: maybe it’s play, autonomy, or understanding my needs?
When I look through the no-fault lens, I feel care and compassion for myself and for others. I also often have new interest in finding solutions that work for everyone.
These five practices will help you create an internal No-Fault Zone:
Here is how these practices can apply to the example of finding yourself cleaning the house while other family members are relaxing.
• Notice any judgments, such as: They’re so inconsiderate. They don’t help with anything around the house.
If you take up these practices, I predict they will be game-changing for you, and will lead you to the gold at the core of conflict. They will also strengthen your capacity to listen, understand and find creative win-win solutions. And they could even make this winter holiday the most fun yet!
For added fun and support in playing the No-Fault Game, check out The No-Fault Zone® Game, a colorful board game designed to guide players through conversations and conflicts to the goal of connection and understanding. See and order The No-Fault Zone Game at www.thenofaultzone.com.