When you get caught up in a conflict with another person, it can be easy to focus on that other person rather than yourself. You may try to get that person to agree with your side of the argument. Or you may try to figure out how you can change yourself to make that other person happy. The problem is that often the other person won’t change. Or you can’t change yourself enough to make him or her happy. This makes it hard to resolve the conflict.
There is a different way to deal your conflicts. This way will allow you to resolve your conflicts for good.
First, step back and observe yourself and the other person in the conflict. Observe what both of you are saying and doing. Do this by yourself without talking about it to the other person in the drama.
Look specifically at what the other person is saying and doing to you. Be honest and ask yourself, What do I think this person is doing to me? What is he or she saying or doing to me? What thing is he or she doing that bothers me so much? Or ask, What quality in the other person really upsets or annoys me. Focus in great detail about what that person is doing to you. Since you aren’t telling anyone else your thoughts, you can be brutally honest about the terrible things you think he or she is doing. It doesn’t matter how much you like this person. This could be about a conflict with the person you love most. Still be honest about what he or she is doing to you.
Common things that people feel are being done to them include being neglected, abused, disrespected, unappreciated or betrayed. Irritating qualities that bother you about the other person may include things like being lazy, selfish, or controlling.
I’ll give you some examples. Imagine that you are always angry with your co-worker. He doesn’t do his fair share of the work and then he lies to cover his tracks with the supervisor. You think he is lazy and you are sick of always picking up the slack.
If you ask yourself what the co-worker does to you, you think he victimizes you. The qualities you don’t like about him are his laziness and lying.
Or imagine you are a mother who is upset because your husband and children don’t help with the housework and cooking. You work full-time and then have to come home and do all the work around the house. This is making you exhausted and you are only sleeping four hours a night. You may be feeling very angry toward your family. You may get into arguments with your husband and kids and you may find yourself saying hurtful things that you later regret.
Ask yourself, what is it that my family does that bothers me? You may realize that even if they love you, their behavior tells you they don’t respect you. They don’t care about how exhausted and unhappy you are. And the quality in them you don’t like is their laziness.
The next step in this new way of dealing with dramas is to pick up the proverbial mirror and look at your own self. Look inside of yourself for whatever you think is being done to you or whatever quality you don’t like in that other person. If you see that the other person is being disrespectful of you, look at your own life and ask where you are being disrespectful of yourself. If you think the other person is being controlling, look at your own life and ask where you are being controlling.
In the example of the co-worker who doesn’t do his fair share of the work, look at yourself and ask where you are being a victimizer. It may be that you are victimizing someone in another area of your life. Maybe you are taking advantage of a family member in a totally separate situation. Or maybe the mirror is showing you that by staying in the situation the way it is and continually letting your co-worker take advantage of you, you are victimizing your own self.
Also, look in the mirror for the qualities in your co-worker that bother you. You may see that by staying in the situation and not confronting your co-worker, you are being lazy. It would be more work to deal with all the stress that might come from confronting your co-worker. You should also look for places in your life where you are lying, either to yourself or others. You are lying to your supervisor if you don’t tell him about what is really happening with your co-worker.
If you are the mother who feels your family doesn’t respect you and you think they are all lazy, where are you not respecting your own self and where are you being lazy? The fact that you keep working when everyone else is resting is an example of your not taking care of yourself and not respecting yourself. Maybe in a way you are being lazy. It can be easier for you to do everyone else’s work rather than start what seems like the monumental job of getting the rest of the family to respect you and become more responsible.
When you take this new approach to managing your conflicts, you now become the center of your attention. This is good because you are the only person you can really change. The conflict now changes from being about your drama with another person to being a mirror showing you part of yourself that needs some work.
As you are working on the mirror, feel any emotions that are triggered. Do this on your own time. Don’t create more conflict by accidentally projecting your emotions on the other person.
Once you see what the conflict has been created to show you, you can make the appropriate changes to resolve it. Figure out exactly what you need. Figure out what you are willing to compromise on and what you definitely can’t give in on. Be ready to express your needs clearly, without drama and without projected emotions.
In the example of the problem with your co-worker, you may decide you need to change the division of labor and you will clearly express your plans to him. Or you may decide to talk to your supervisor about the problem.
If you are the mother who feels disrespected by her lazy family, you can change the situation by figuring out what help you need around the house. Figure out the details of what chores need to be done and when they need to be done. Then, in a determined but non-confrontational way, let your family know what you expect from them.
The people in your life may refuse to work with you and they may not honor your requests. In an ideal world, they will want to resolve your conflict. But in reality, they may be more focused on their own selves than on your needs. If this happens, go back to the mirror and work the process again. Again, figure out what they are doing to you and pick up the mirror and figure out where you are doing that yourself. Feel your emotions. When you know what you need to do, act.
The beauty of the mirror is that it works for both painful and joyful relationships. If you are in a wonderful relationship and are having are great time, the other person in the relationship is mirroring the part of you that is fulfilled and joyful. Try to recognize this fact when things are going well, and give yourself credit for choosing the people and situations that give you joy.
Recognize too, the fact that you are a mirror for other people. If you decide to change the way you live your life, you may trigger aspects of other people’s mirrors that are conflicting for them. If you start talking to your co-worker about your problems at work, he may not want to deal with the changes you request. If you are the mother trying to get your family to help around the house, they may not want to help you.
As long as you are acting in a mindful, responsible way to change your own life, don’t stop your forward movement in order to help other people avoid their work. If you are living a healthy life and your life is causing other people to see uncomfortable aspects of themselves in their mirrors, so be it. Let them figure themselves out and let them learn the lessons their mirrors have to teach.
I love the idea of the mirror. You can apply it to all the different dramas in your life. It allows you to get to the root of your problems and resolve your conflicts for once and for all. It may not always be easy to look at yourself and acknowledge your role in your conflicts. But once you start approaching life this way, you will see how a new perspective can change everything.