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1 (855) EMPATHY

Life and communication coaching for women.

Transforming Conflict Into Connection


Transforming Conflict Into Connection

Marina Smerling


It happens.

No matter how much we tip toe... and walk on egg shells... and say all the right things... and pull all the right dance moves... still... it happens.

Conflict is an unavoidable part of life, and yet, so much suffering comes not from the skirmish itself, but from the added layer of "there's something wrong with me" that we pile on top of it, finding in conflict proof, yet again, of our defectiveness and not enoughness.

How, then, when conflict rears its head, might we portion out just a little more self-gentleness, a little more trust, a little more mercy for ourselves amid the madness?

Last week, I shared a few practices for transforming shame when conflict within runs amok.  But what about conflict without?

This week's tips:


First and foremost, come down out of the head -- the world of never-ending arguments and opinions and perspectives and analyses of yourself and of the other -- and drop your attention into your heart.

Find the one-syllable word to express what’s going on in you. E.g., “Ouch,” “Yikes,” “Whoa," and say that word aloud to yourself, acknowledging the simplicity of the hurt beneath the surface.


Dare to get curious about what’s going on beneath the surface.  Ask yourself, “What hurts? What is it that I'm longing for?”

Your biggest ally here is your capacity to de-shame your needs, to notice their universality and their beauty. “All beings value ____.”  “I really love ____.”  "It's okay to want what I want, to need what I need."

From here, see if you can get drop your assumptions about the other person, even just for a millisecond, and get curious; what on earth might *they* be needing?  Guess in a way that genuinely opens your heart to them.  Your wildly absurd empathy guesses are likely closer to the truth than you know.


Expand the pie.  Imagine that it's not your slice versus their slice, but that the pie contains a never-ending source of support and joy and nurturance that can easily hold the two of you.

In this light, what unprecedented strategies might you dream up that could support both of you in having a sense of mattering, and of having a place -- and a voice -- at the table of life?

Our world full of war and strife needs your mercy -- for yourself first and foremost.  It needs your capacity to attend gently to yourself, to move from that hardened place of knowing who's right and who's wrong to the tender place of curiosity and wonderment, and it needs your capacity to ask, and not immediately know, what's possible.

When you drop the war against yourself, you help drop the war against the world.  You move one step closer to Rumi's field, inviting the rest of us to step in and join you.

"Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.  I'll meet you there." ~ Jalaluddin Rumi

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