Have you ever experienced a nurse asking, “How would you rate your pain?”
I’m always fascinated by the answers people give. My son had a broken foot and casually threw out, “Yeah, I’d say about two.” A two? Your bone is in separate pieces! And then other people go full-out Brian Regan and throw out eights like candy at a parade.
Comfort levels with conflict are as varied as there are people. The responses to discomfort tend to fall into a few categories.
Some people rush into conflict, armored to the hilt and ready for a battle they are likely to lose by winning.
Others just moonwalk out, singing to themselves they are nobly keeping the peace when they are actually just faking it.
Still others become a popsicle, with a frozen, silent smile, hoping the conflict is just over before they melt.
Healthy conflict requires growing out of those natural responses. The opportunities in conflict lie in staying in the moment, fully present and open. Oh, but there is the looming mountain of awkward discomfort to climb before reaching those opportunities.
There are lots of tools available to stay open in conflict. My first, trusty go-to: eight seconds.
Yep, 8 seconds.
Brené Brown writes that the bravery window is eight seconds. When faced with a potential conflict, those feelings of discomfort, apprehension, or even fear rise up quickly.
(I see you friends out there who consider yourself a thinker, not ruled by emotion. You have these emotions too, whether you acknowledge them or not. Stay with me.)
In those eight seconds, first take a breath. A literal, fill-your-lungs-with-air-and-get-oxygen-to-your-brain-so-you-are-in-control-of-yourself breath. That’s like three seconds right there. (You escape artists and reframers, stay with it. You’re almost there.)
Then, identify the intensity of your feeling. Give it a rating. One to ten is a good scale. The number quickly gives you a general idea of the strength of your emotion. (For you friends out there who struggle with perfection—no one else knows. You will always have the right answer.)
Finally, name what you’re feeling and thinking: I’m uncomfortable because I don’t understand. I’m afraid I will make someone mad. I’m angry because this happened. I am frustrated I don’t have enough information.
Congratulations, you’ve made it eight seconds! Now you’ve felt it. The worst is over. You have begun laying down your armor, quiet your dancing feet, and unfreeze your body.
If you try using this tool, you’ll notice the intensity and the awkward dissipates, and you can enter into a conversation with openness.
Brian was right: Say eight!
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