How to Respond to Almost Anything

Have you ever felt disoriented by audacious, rude, or cheeky treatment from another person? Even worse than the feeling of social awkwardness and embarrassment that often are the result, these events may throw you into a drama of your own. You might feel angry, inadequate, or want to back away. Or, you might get defensive and start to attack, saying things you later regret. Conflicts can snowball and before long you can find yourself in a landscape you don’t like or understand.

The best way to stop conflicts like this before they happen is to remember two things: don’t take the approach of others personally, and buy yourself time before you respond. Together, these two actions will make you unflappable.

Not taking things personally is the first rule for finding joy and peace. Make a short list of the people and behaviors that make you feel bad to see where you’re still believing it’s actually about you. Then take a breath  and remember that you were born OK, you will die OK, and you are OK at every moment in between. Anything that makes you doubt that is a teacher for you to see your vulnerability, but it also is a lie.

The second rule for stopping these kinds of conflicts is to ask questions that buy you time and space to respond from the heart. Learn the following phrases and practice saying them with a real sense of curiosity:

Tell me more.

Why would you say that?

Why would you do that?

Why would you ask that?

These questions aren’t rude — they’re strategic.

By keeping your focus on the other person, you protect yourself from intrusion and energy loss. They also allow you to learn more about the person who is asking the question. That information will guide you to respond without falling into a battle that produces only more wounds and no real progress. They let you keep your Wise Self in control.

Unlearning old habits of reactivity and choosing how to respond instead will help you become more grounded and centered. Mindfulness practice is the key. Over time, your ability to hold your space will create the next step beyond conflict management: the ability to bring healing to challenging people and situations, thereby serving their soul — as well as your own.

To your success,