How to Use Meditation to Resolve Workplace Conflict

Human beings have a funny habit of being very kind and polite to strangers, but when it comes to close friends, family and coworkers, we tend to lose ourselves and respond in anger and frustration.

Because of the familiarity that develops, we get too comfortable and react instead of respond. We forget ourselves, where we are and what our goals are. When we’ve been working with the same people for a long time, when little quirks turn into major annoyances, and when we get too comfortable around people, we start to react without thought. It all comes down to mindfulness.

There are a million techniques for becoming better communicators. There are a million phrases you can find on the internet to help end conflicts amicably. But all that stuff is too much to keep in our heads at all times.

A lack of clear communication stems from a mind that is not clear. When we bring clarity to our thoughts, clear words and actions inevitably follow.

Here’s how to stay clear when emotions get heavy.

1. Practice Presence to Resolve Workplace Conflict

First and foremost, we have to make being present a habit. It won’t happen all of a sudden, but the more we practice, the more present we become.

Most people who don’t have a regular practice walk around with about 10% presence, and they’ll have a few moments throughout the day where it will be higher. When we appreciate a flower, play with a pet, make art or participate in some adrenaline-fueled sport, these things tend to force us to be present. The key is to maintain that level of present moment awareness throughout the day.

We do this by practicing being aware of our thoughts, of our bodies, and of the spaces we’re in as we go about our day.

Whatever is happening in the moment, we stay aware of it.
When we’re eating, we notice the sensations in our body, not just our mouth. This way we stop when we’re full.

When we’re giving a presentation, we stay present of the people in the room, not just on what we have to do.

This makes us more relaxed and present, which translates as confident and relaxed.

When we’re engaged in difficult conversations, we stay aware of our body’s reaction.

When we stay aware of how our body and mind are reacting, we don’t lose ourselves to those emotions.

When we stay aware, we are not lost in thought and we can actually respond clearly and calmly to anything anyone says.

It’s always the thinking mind that screams thoughts like, “How dare they! Are they dumb?! Who do they think they are?!” Awareness can look at those thoughts, smile and laugh at our ego for being so silly.

The Key to Presence

Because most of us have a decades-long habit of not being present, we have to put aside some time dedicated to creating a new habit of presence. This is what meditation is for.

In the morning or evening, for a few minutes every single day, close your eyes and focus on your breath or a mantra. The mind will wander, and when you catch yourself, just bring your attention back to the breath or mantra.

This is the practice of presence that makes staying mindful and present throughout the day much easier.

The mantra can be any word, sound or phrase. “Om” is always a good one. And you just repeat that in your mind for 5, 10 or 20 minutes.

If you can focus on your breath, with your mouth closed (if that’s comfortable) just notice either the sensations in your nose or in your belly, whichever is easier for you.

You can sit however is comfortable.

Don’t put any pressure on yourself, no perfectionism, no stress or worry. You can’t do it wrong. Just relax and allow for whatever happens or comes up in your mind. It’s all great. This isn’t like the rest of life where we have to be the best.

During work, if you ever start to get upset or stressed, try to get away for a few minutes to practice this. Just one moment of presence can completely stop your train of thought.

2. Say It with Kindness to Resolve Workplace Conflict

Most of the time when we’re upset with someone, we want to tell them how they screwed up to make ourselves feel better. But that is only going to make the situation worse.

Don’t say what you need to communicate until you are calm. When you can say it with compassion, people will be much more receptive to pretty much any feedback.

A lot of times, we get so angry we can’t even imagine how we would say a criticism calmly or nicely. But we must. This is the key to handling difficult conversations.

No matter how angry we get, we can compose ourselves, remind ourselves of the mutual goals we have, remember the person surely didn’t mean to screw up or make us angry, and we can communicate the way we’d want someone else to communicate a failing with us.

Just like we’d tell a dear friend some bad news, with an arm around them and in a loving and concerned voice, we can do the same at the office. It may not be appropriate to put an arm around them, but we can convey that same emotion with our voice and body language.

When people know we have their best interest at heart, they’re more likely to hear what we have to say instead of putting up defensive walls.

Remember, no matter how much we may dislike someone at work, our goal isn’t to tell them. It’s to get through the day doing the best job we can do. So yelling, getting angry, getting stressed, or fuming are not going to help. The only thing that will help is staying calm and relaxed, saying what needs to be said in the best possible way, and staying professional.

3. Instead of Focusing on What They Need to Fix, Focus on the Team to Resolve Workplace Conflict

It’s easy to focus on the faults of others. It’s a lot harder to focus on what we can do better, how we can manage our emotions better, and how the team can improve as a unit.

Sometimes we need to say hard truths with kindness. But sometimes letting things go, especially things that seem like a one-time issue, is the best way to move forward.

We’re all humans. No matter how much it looks like someone may be trying to make your life difficult, the odds are they are just trying not to screw up and don’t think much about you and your inner life at all.

So when our ego is bruised, or when a teammate’s is, focusing on the team lets everyone off the hook without letting the issue slide. It refocuses everyone on the common goal and no one has to be blamed.

We are all humans at the end of the day. Sometimes we have good days and sometimes people are having a rough year. Whenever you catch yourself thinking, “What the heck is their problem?!” Stay mindful and change that unconscious reaction to this thoughtful response, “I wonder what problems they’re going through.” That way we turn anger and disappointment into compassion and wisdom.

If someone at work just seems like they really want to ruin your life, remember that no one else is responsible for your reactions. You can stay joyful and at peace, present and calm in any circumstance. Presence just takes practice.

We don’t have to overthink conflicts. When we are present, the right words will flow out in precisely the right way. Our true self can’t really fight with anyone because deep down we are all one. Only egos can fight with other egos. So drop the ego and see all conflicts disappear. All that remains is the beautiful process of mutual understanding.

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