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From sports teams, to political parties, to gay marriage, to abortion, conflict and differing opinions are as abundant in our own communities as in the whole of the world. So, how does one disengage from the cortisol-fest of a disagreement?
Here are a few simple steps:
1. Let go of the need to have the last word.
This is actually an act of preservation. Keeping quiet does not prove you’re right any less than having the last word. It does not strengthen your case. It, in fact, only leaves you bubbling with more negativity.
Conflict is contagious; the human instinct of “fight or flight” kicks in, and oftentimes things are said in heated anger that are not really necessary. By refusing the ego’s desire to have the last word, we are actually deflecting negativity and honoring ourselves. We are also, in turn, training the ego to control less of our instinctual reactions.
2. Respect an opinion that is not your own.
By allowing another person to have an opinion separate from, or even opposite of, yours is liberating. It often doesn’t feel that way, in the moment, and someone else’s viewpoint can infuriate or awaken some other passionate emotion in you.
This propels a desperate need to “argue one’s case.” No matter how reasonable your approach and delivery of a particular point of view, there will still be millions of people who see the world differently.
There’s simply no changing that. So by practicing non-attachment, and respecting that opinions exist as separate entities from your own, you naturally disengage from conflict. You naturally realize it is not your role to argue, but rather to strengthen your own opinions and viewpoints and live your truth.
3. Soften your face.
It sounds so simple, so useless a tactic, but I promise it will make you feel better. It will quell negativity more than you realize. By refusing the body language, facial expressions and ocular behaviors (I dub eye-rolling, squinting of condescending nature, and prolonged shut-eye insinuating frustration in a realm of their own!
They’re very powerful at conveying as much, if not more, as words could). By keeping a passive face (which does not signal defeat or resignation), you are not only distracted by the effort it takes to maintain this expression, but you're also practicing yet another act of self-preservation.
This mindful act urges us to choose our words more carefully and not lay all of our cards on the table (which, in the end, only leaves us feeling more vulnerable, angry and frustrated).
Softening the face and making a sincere effort to use less words, but more heartfelt words, is invaluable in disengaging from conflict.
Conflict will occur out in the world regardless of how prepared we are for it. But isn’t it a nicer idea to walk away from a disagreement feeling calm, confident and composed, rather than shaky, angry and obsessing over all that was said?
We are human, and we get angry, it just happens. But if we can do our best to employ tactics such as these, we offer ourselves the solace of remaining unattached from negativity, and that is one of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves.