Today’s prompt is transformation. That was today’s prompt and today’s story. Today I transformed an angry, frustrating morning to a peaceful and fulfilling evening.
My credo is: conflict is a crisis in human interaction. That’s how it’s described in transformative mediation. Certainly in my personal life, the conflict that matter is the conflict I have with those I love and care for.
I volunteer regularly at the Dayton Mediation Center and have acted as a contractor for this organization as well. I am very proud of the work I have done with the Center and pride myself on being resolute on being a positive role model to others learning how to mediate in the transformative model. Our model believes that people have the ability to resolve their own conflicts and that our role is to listen so that they can move from the frustration they feel to a more comfortable place to be able to make decisions about their conflict.
Recently, I mediated a case for the mediation center. I was satisfied that the decisions I made (i.e. which parts of the conversation should be reflected back or helping the parties make decisions about their conflict) were positive contributions to the conversation the parties were having. The challenge was providing these interventions with an interpreter in the room which added an extra layer of tension. Afterward, a concern arose about how the interpreter acted and whether or not we should provide training to our interpreters so they can better assist us in the mediation process.
During our debrief discussion, I came away feeling frustrated and not heard or understood. I am struggling to admit that I may have misunderstood the intentions of my colleague. I felt blamed for something I didn’t feel was my responsibility. I was probably reacting out of fatigue and frustration and not to what was being said in the conversation.
Nevertheless, I didn’t express the frustration I was feeling. I went home thinking I would address it later. You know, the old “I’ll think about this later.” trick of conflict non-resolution.
A few days later I got an e-mail thanking me for my contribution to the Center and reflecting back the concerns that were expressed during our debrief. And then, that “I’ll take care of it later” came rushing to the surface in feelings of hurt and anger.
There I was feeling angry, frustrated, unheard, misunderstood. I wrote a quick sharp e-mail complaining about this “thank you” letter. The response was nicely worded and explained the intention of the staff member. I did answer with a little less anger and also added that I did not need a thank you letter, thank you very much!
Regardless, I was still holding this huge emotion. I was pacing the floor. I was ready to pounce on anyone who entered the room. I was stewing. I contemplated how I would walk away from the world or how I would hide in a hole for the rest of my life!
I wanted to write a blog post or watch a comedy show or read a book. But, my mind would not sit still. It kept revisiting my most unreasonable emotional response. In spite of my emotions, I was fully aware that I was not being reasonable. Knowing I am not being reasonable does not seem to help me get to reasonable.
Finally, I had a brilliant idea! I will call another mediator and ask her if she would let me tell her my story, talk through my emotions. I was very lucky that she was free when I called. And, I was astounded at how quickly I started to feel this huge emotion lift from my like a weighted blanket floating away. All she did was to reflect back what I said so that I knew she had listened. She asked me if I wanted to define next steps and I didn’t need them.
That was it! Presto, chango and I felt like a new person. It took fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes and I has a miracle cure for my ailing mind. All of the animosity I felt towards my colleagues and my embarrassment (interesting how that was yesterday’s word) disappeared.
So, today, in the midst of thinking what to write about this word, I experienced this word. I experienced the transformation of my own emotional state from anger and frustration to a serenity that is exactly how I like to be!
Here is a secret I want to share with you. Listening really is a gift you can give to others. Really just letting someone vent their emotions and feelings is one of the most powerful gifts you can give. If you are in need, let someone gift you their ear!
Thanks to Janet Mueller from the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation. She was an excellent listener and is a most valued colleague.
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