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Communicating from Compassion and Strength

December 06, 2022 11:41 AM | Lydia VanderKaay (Administrator)

Communicating from Compassion and Strength

by Janet Mueller

As a transformative mediator, I see and experience the relational worldview in action every time I mediate.  I see how people move between weakness and strength, and self-absorbed and compassionate. Yet my own experience of this still confuses me.  Sometimes, it is so easy for me to be compassionate.  I give people a pass for “not so great behavior.” (My compassion is so big, I can’t even call it bad behavior!) I understand their circumstances or I know they mean well.  But other times and with other people, I immediately jump to frustration and criticism – giving no passes whatsoever.  And what about considering myself? Often I let that go, setting aside my own needs and wants, for the other. 

Why am I so compassionate sometimes and other times completely impatient and intolerant (aka self-absorbed)? Why do I stand up for myself sometimes and other times acquiesce?  

As a practitioner in the ADR field, I want to do conflict well.  I want to understand my own experiences of conflict, grow and get better.  But answering these questions for myself is no easy task.

I tried to tease out when and where each of these were true- when I put myself first, when I put others first and when I could truly consider both.  I was looking for patterns.  This helped some as I did find that I am often the most self-absorbed and least considerate in my closest relationship and when I am more removed from the conflict, my compassion flows more easily. 

I was surprised by this and felt there must be more. As I dug deeper I found other things that impact my compassion and strength.  I found layers upon layers of cultural expectations that I have absorbed, implicit biases that I work to be aware of, and my basic needs like food and sleep that factor in too.

Reflecting on a recent experience working with a group, I remembered that conflict is hard. (As if that weren’t completely obvious!)  I felt pushed and pulled in this meeting.  In the moment, I was able to acknowledge what I was experiencing to myself.  And that awareness helped me to find support, to ask for time to process, and to begin to see the other. 

It is humbling to be a professional conflict practitioner and still struggle with my own conflicts.  Yet, these challenges help me continue to grow and learn so I can make different choices in the future.

If you are curious about your own experience of conflict and how it could be different, I encourage you join me for a *workshop on December 15th!

*Workshop description and registration

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