Have you ever had a persistent conflict with somebody at work, a friend, mother-in-law, etc.? It’s a silly question, I know, because of course you have. In fact, you probably do, right now! Great! What ripe opportunities for the pickin.’
I’ve had one with my colleague at the holistic retreat center I work at. We’re a whopping staff of three, and nobody is boss. Officially, we all work together as a team. Now I don’t know about you, but working as a team means everybody pulls their weight and helps each other out when they’re too busy.
My coworker has been bossy and delegative for almost as long as I’ve known her, like she’s some kind of chief executive. It’s constantly, “Nick, do this do that. Nick, can you go downstairs, take out the compost, and take the sheets out of the dryer? Nick, can you print the schedule for the Yoga Detox retreat for me? Nick, why didn’t you check messages? I’m not registering these people for the retreat. I’m not the only one who should be doing this.” Nevermind that she’s the facilities person, is the only one with a printer attached to her computer, and the phone is on her desk. Nevermind that she alone controls the flow of money, and is the only one with the password to the paypal account. Nevermind that I’m the marketing guy with about 8421721676421210 things to do on any given day.
So, I’ve gotten pissed! Now, I don’t like being TOLD what to do, period. I especially dislike it when I’m being asked to do someone else’s job, when I work so hard at my own. I found myself boiling beneath the surface, uttering things to myself like, “Get off your own a*& and do it. I’m not your b&@$*.” But, I never said anything because I DON’T LIKE CONFLICT.
Now, I just finished reading Energy Leadership by Bruce Schneider (founder of IPEC Life Coaching School). It’s a stellar explanation of how energy works, and he outlines 7 levels ranging from the most passive, lethargic, and apathetic to the most powerful, passionate, and creative. I’m going to show you how these apply to my conflict.
As is told in the book, Level 1 energy is passive defeat. I call it “passive dependence,” and it’s where you are when you’re in conflict with somebody but you’re not willing to proactively do anything about it. It is characterized by avoidance. The paradigm is “I hate me. I lose.” There’s always a belief underlying it, and in my case I didn’t believe in my own resistance to being bossed around.
Do you ever find yourself in that situation? You’re feeling something is not right with someone but you’d rather avoid it than deal with conflict. You’d rather let somebody beat you up than risk more damage by fighting them. You’d rather put up with it than expend the energy, increasing to level 2. At level 2 you decide to fight back. You’re not going to take this crap anymore. I call “self interest-negative,” and the belief is that there’s not enough room for us to coexist in the same space – eat or be eaten, survival of the fittest.
The paradigm here becomes “I hate you. You lose.” At level 2, you’re going to kick the living daylights out of ’em. It’s what happens when I say to my coworker, “No! I’m not doin’ it! Don’t boss me around, chump! I ain’t doin’ your job. Get off your lazy a$$ and do it yourself.” This level 2 response may be “inappropriate” in our culture, but it opens up more energy than level 1.
It’s important to understand, however, that these levels are not good or bad. They just are what they are, and they have their benefits and drawbacks. For example, during World War II it was level 2 energy that allowed the allies to defeat the Nazis. If we weren’t a bunch of self-centered egotists who weren’t going to let the Germans take over Europe no how, no way, they might have actually succeeded.
So, are you angry at those you’re in conflict with? Do you want to punish them and make sure they know that you ain’t gonna take it? If so, you’re in level 2 energy. This energy is centered in the 2nd chakra, just below the navel. It’s where all of our impulses to dominate, submit, and control come from. (If you’ve got control issues, you might sometimes feel a clenching down there.) You might be a master of level 2 energy. Maybe you’re a boxer or a conversational bully. Nobody gets one over on you. It is what it is, but for most of us, myself included, it’s not a very satisfying outcome. So, we move on to level 3, which I have called, “Self interest-positive.”
At level 3 you decide to take responsibility for the situation. You forgive the other person. They are no longer the enemy because you acknowledge your role in the conflict. You begin cooperating with them. At this level the paradigm becomes, “I win, and I hope you do too,” and the underlying belief is that I have power to influence my own destiny.
In my case, a level 3 response to my coworker is, “I’d like to help you right now, but I can’t.” Also, people at this level agree to disagree. “I don’t agree with you.” Disagreement is still personal at this level, but here you start thinking from an empowered place. You own your contribution. You no longer see others as doing things to you, and you forgive them for being a fool. You start working together with them and the conflict is over.
So those are levels 1-3. It’s a good enough start, wouldn’t you say? I will cover levels 4-7 in another article.
Here are your 3 steps to overcoming conflict:
Identify what you’re afraid of. “What am I afraid of?” Speak it to yourself. Then state an affirmation in positive terms that will empower you personally.
Example: I’m afraid of getting a harsh response from my coworker. I’m willing to face my fear of this.
Identify your anger. “What am I angry about?” Speak it to yourself. This time state an affirmation about your strength.
Example: I’m angry about being pushed around like a servant. I won’t let my coworker push me around.
Identify where you haven’t been taking responsibility, and speak it to yourself. Then state an affirmation about how you will take full responsibility for your contribution.
Example: I’ve been silent about how much I don’t like being told what to do. I take full responsibility for being silent in this matter. I will admit my silence to my coworker and take responsibility for how I feel.
Try these simple steps to acknowledge and raise your energy level. Remember, always be honest with yourself about where you are. You cannot move forward until this happens. To increase personal awareness, take time to “center.” See my “To Meditate, to Live” post for a simple meditation technique.