Habits are hard to break. And when they have been cultivated over the years, your body will execute those habits without your mind ever having to think about it.
Driving our car is an example. Brushing our teeth. Chopping the veggies. And throwing toilet paper in the toilet bowl after wiping our butt.
Usually, that’s not a problem. But here on La Palma, it is. The sewer system can’t handle more than a few sheets a day. In each and every bathroom, there is a friendly reminder to throw your paper in the wastebasket.
Of course, I’m all for keeping the sewer system unclogged, so I am adamant about complying with the request.
Unfortunately, I fail more than 70% of the time. No matter how mindful I’m breathing while on the potty, how much I use the tools for building new habits, and bang myself on the head when I fail: my hand automatically drops the paper in the loo.
Since I’m not willing to drag them out, I regretfully have to flush them away, keeping my fingers crossed that the sewer system doesn’t spill over on my bathroom floor.
As yucky as all of this might sound, it can be a good image to keep in mind, the next time you react to anger and criticism.
If building new toilet habits is hard, building new conflict resolution skills is even harder because our needs for respect, self-worth, and emotional safety are on the line.
We need to pay attention to the friendly reminders for mindfulness, or we end up seeing those needs float in a yucky interaction.
Worse, the communication channel gets clogged with enemy images and future interactions will be contaminated with the residues of this one.
There is a better response: empathy. When we listen to the precious needs behind the tragic expression of unmet needs, we can drop our judgments and evaluations and decrease the risk that we have to get down on our hands and knees to clean up the distasteful remains of our relationship.
How important would that be to you? Which relationships could benefit from your ability to stop your habitual reflex to conflict and instead choose a mindful response? How would your life be different?
If you imagine life would be yummier, you might enjoy signing up for my free webinar “Mindful Conflict Resolution”.
Not only will you hear how to empathize skillfully but you will also get two other tools to help to transform conflict into collaboration. Make sure you reserve your spot: I only have a few left.
This is what Charlie Rice says about the webinar:
“I appreciated that you kept the discussions pretty brief and spent most of the time going over your material. These strategies will really help me going forward and it is so nice to have a framework to practice.” – Charlie Rice, Austin