How to Be Heard in Conflict

"screaming red guy" mfah, houston, tx

Have you ever been in a conversation where you feel like everyone is being heard but you? Sometimes it seems like the loudest person in the room gets to make all the decisions, and it has nothing to do with what’s right or who knows best. For those of us who don’t like to shout and who prefer to think through our opinions before stating them forcefully, it can be hard to feel heard and respected in a world that increasingly favors the faux conversations of talking heads in place of a real exchange of ideas. The following is a technique I use to help me hold my ground in a peaceful yet assertive way, even in situations of potential conflict.

Step 1: Get centered. If you’re meditating or practicing yoga with some regularity, that will help immensely. But at the bare minimum, take a deep breath and choose to be fully present in your body and this very moment before you enter the fray.

Step 2: Stand in tadasana. Tadasana is a tall, engaged, yet effortless stance in which your entire body is in its neutral alignment. Feet are rooted into the earth, legs are strong, spine is long, crown of the head is reaching toward the sky, jaw is relaxed and eyes are clear. This strong stance conveys confidence both to you and anyone who observes you.

Step 3: Know your intentions. You don’t have to know precisely what you need to say or exactly what outcome to expect, but if you are very clear about your intentions, you will know when to stick to your guns and when to negotiate. Your core intention should be very simple: Know how you wish to be treated and how you intend to treat others.

Step 4: Meet them half way. Look for the physical center of the conversation. Whether you’re speaking with one person or several, imagine a point of energy that’s approximately at the center of all the participants in this conversation. Square your shoulders toward that place, and direct your energy and awareness to that place.

These steps are just a starting point for entering the conversation. Deciding what to say next is up to you, but once you have the confidence to take up space in the conversation, you will develop the ability to speak your mind, even if it means interrupting in order to be heard. When you’re ready to speak, here are a few tips for making sure people receive your message:

  • Don’t engage in shouting matches. Talking over others is a sign of weakness and ignorance.
  • Get right to the point. You don’t have to explain yourself.
  • Don’t apologize. Your opinions and observations are valid already, and you do not need anyone’s permission to express them.
  • Be prepared to say difficult truths in the kindest yet most direct way possible.
  • Don’t make it personal. The moment a person feels insulted or attacked, they disengage from the conversation and begin to act defensively.

Finally, acknowledge that you have taken a risk. If you’re not accustomed to speaking up in conflict, you may feel shaky or even cry afterward. Pat yourself on the back, take a deep breath, have a tall glass of water, and go for a walk if you need to. A little fresh air with help clear your head.

Now, go out and practice being kind, you brave soul you. XO!

Yoga Sutras 1.25 & 1.26: God and the Guru
Yoga Sutras 1.23 & 1.24: God is truth. Seek truth.

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