How To Avoid Relationship Conflicts With One Little Word

How To Avoid Relationship Conflicts With One Little Word

MAUDE: I was in a Zoom women’s group and was sharing about a technique that was discussed in a class I attended. This technique was designed to be used in situations where you are feeling responses like irritation, impatience, or anger in your relationships. The simple, yet very effective technique, is to ask yourself in such a situation, “What is important here?” This helps you to calm down and to think about where you want to put your emphasis in responding to a situation you are finding challenging.

When I recounted this story, I unconsciously added a word to it. I said. “Stop, and ask yourself what is important here.” One of the women shared that hearing me say stop gave her something she could understand working with when things were getting heated in a relationship.

If you stop, what are you stopping? You are stepping away from being reactive in the situation. When you stop, the very first thing you will often find is that you can breathe. In these situations, people often start holding their breath without realizing it. Stopping pulls you into the present and gives you a moment to step back from being drawn into conflict, if that’s where your mind or the other person’s behavior is going.

Most people have a variety of responses at the same time to any given situation, especially those that are challenging. Stopping enables you to make a choice of which of your responses represents the value which you want to give your energy to. It is not always possible to do this in the moment, but when you stop before reacting or responding, you get that moment to see what is going on, to breathe, and to bring your thoughts and feelings into the present.

When you react with anger, fear, or hatred, you are coming from your deep-seated and strong survival instincts. They are very strong because they are defensive postures ingrained in us and resident in the earliest part of our primitive brain. When you stop, you gain time in the present to choose a different place to interact from. You can move into thoughts and feelings of a higher and more developed part of you.

This is not about suppressing your feelings, but rather selecting which of your feelings and thoughts you want to represent in your words and deeds.

It is very empowering to realize that we have a choice in how we relate if we reach out and grab it. Sometimes all it takes is stepping inside yourself and finding the value you want to manifest with your actions and words. Peace is just a choice away.In a conflict, stop and ask yourself what is important #quote #relationships Share on X

PHIL: Maude was telling the story of advising someone who was involved in a conflict: “Stop and ask yourself what’s important here.” She thought the kernel of the advice was looking at what was important, but her friend was captivated by the injunction to stop, and I can see why.

To stop is to step back from the reasons why you’re right and that they’re a terrible person and the horrible things that might happen and just be in the body for a moment. I think to be able to do this at all, you have to know of that place, to have a sense that there is a center that endures, and you know about this through mindfulness or meditating or just the sheer accumulation of life experiences.

It’s easy for me to say this and much harder to carry it out. I get caught up in the event and only afterward see how I reacted; at the time it was pure reaction without much thought.

I recently became fascinated with how language has given us a different way to view and respond to the world. Our emotional responses still exist and are sometimes at odds with our thoughts. We have two voices in different languages trying to steer our path. Of course, this is nothing new; Freud, Jung, and modern psychology talk about this. Nonetheless, I have found the notion of my verbal and non-verbal self very useful. The verbal can be aware of the non-verbal, but not the other way around.

That is what “Stop” does. It brings the attention to the present, to the body Our thoughts are of two kinds: The past, full of our upbringings, culture, habits; and the future, with its plans, goals, worries. They don’t go away, but they aren’t real in the way that our direct experience is, so when we stop, we have the opportunity, just for a moment, of being a whole person and making a choice about what is important.

This choice is between past-oriented and future-oriented. The past orientation is reactive, responding to the events, the words, the hurts. The future is where multiple possibilities exist and we can choose which to take. I think this orientation is what Charles Kingsley was describing in his 1863 children’s book “The Water Babies.” Tom runs away and is turned into a water baby. Two mysterious fairies appear from time to time, Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby and Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, acting as the Golden Rule and karma respectively. Do you want the chance to make the world as you would like it to be, or do you want the past to control your fate?

And this is the choice when we stop in the middle of a conflict. Do we continue the conflict by reacting to it, or do we look for our highest responses, as Maude put it? If you want to live in a peaceful world, you have to act peacefully. How do you want to live your life?

Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Stop, stop, stop!

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14 Comments on “How To Avoid Relationship Conflicts With One Little Word

  1. Thank you for these insights! That one little word creates a space in time to find that inner citadel which has the power to enlarge the potential for discovering and learning the truth in that situation.

    • Thank you Esther! I find it so empowering to know I have a choice. And I can find it more easily if I just STOP and Reflect rather than react!

      • it’s a comfort knowing we have the ‘space’ in time to add more consciousness to a situation. That, in of itself, opens up possibilities; but to realize that by opening up to Guidance, we’re given opportunities to cocreate reality at supreme levels. Blessed be!

  2. Love love love this! and the accompanying photo! Also I now intend to read the water babies.

    • After posting this, I thought I should have pointed out the orange cone placed so drivers would notice the much larger orange sign.

  3. Dear Maude and Phil,
    I think you’ve hit upon a fundamental truth. If I find myself in a reactive situation, first instinctive response is to RESPOND!
    But stepping on the brakes is a better one. Then one can make a considered choice – usually a wiser one.

    Thanks for the reminder,

      • Yes, how its not about suppressing your feelings, however it’s time to pause and then give you time to choose how you want to respond. It’s empowering.

  4. This publication inspired a little poem. Thank you very much.
    Stop, Have a moment to take a step back.
    Think what’s important before you react.
    Stop, Now breathe, take time to chose,
    What emotion to follow, the others to loose.
    Stop from exploding, and fighting with rage.
    Take that short moment to just turn the page.
    Stop and think what’s important for you.
    Then give the response that you get to choose.
    Stop, Don’t regret the things that you do.
    Stop, think, breathe, then act how you want to.

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