Abilene Christian University
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ACU Box 27770
Abilene, TX 79699
Phone: 325-674-2015

Have an Out-of-Body Conflict

Matthew J. Dodd, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


"They just don't get it! This wouldn't be a problem if they saw it my way." If you've ever found yourself thinking this, or even saying it out loud, then you need an out-of-body conflict. You have probably heard the phrase "walk a mile in their shoes" referring to the ability to understand the other person's perspective, but what about hearing from their ears, or seeing from their eyes, or perhaps thinking from their brain. Ok, so that may sound a bit creepy, perspective-taking can make a world of difference in conflict.


So, how do you have an out-of-body experience? Is it like in the movies where you float above yourself and look down on... you? It just might be that easy. First, think about how you experience conflict. Think back to a conflict that you've had and consider what you think, see, hear, and/or feel. Do you feel the tension in your gut? Do you see the eyes turn dark and the other person's face start to tense? Do you hear the strain and apprehension in your voice? Now, as you think back on that conflict, reduce the intensity using the method that fits your experience. So, if you see a video in color, pause the video and turn it into black-and-white. If the voices are loud and overwhelming, make them soft and far away. If you feel knotted up inside relax by imagining your favorite vacation spot. Now that you've got yourself under control, you're halfway done, and you're ready to be beside yourself. When thinking about that conflict, imagine yourself from the other person's eyes, or ears, or gut. Does the conflict look, sound, or feel different? Chances are it does. If you've made it this far, you have the opportunity to see (or hear, or feel) how this conflict is different. You now have the information, and perhaps the emotion to collaborate and find a solution that works for both of you.


As you practice this technique of perspective-taking, you'll be able to find peace in the midst of conflict. You may even find that you don't have all that much to disagree about. So the next time you get into a disagreement and start to see red, hear ringing in your ears, or get a lump in your throat, remember that you need to check out for a moment and check in to the other person's perspective so that you have an out-of-body conflict.


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