The relevance of this quote by Tuli Kupferberg to interpersonal conflict may not be immediately evident. But, through my work as a conflict management coach, and in my own experience, I am aware that we tend to get into patterns about how we react to things that provoke us. These patterns are the habits that become engrained in us. We might, for instance, have certain ‘hot buttons’ – things that other people say or do to which we routinely react. Something about those actions, or attitudes, or way of behaving and so on are irritants for us. It may be especially so when these sorts of behaviours are done by certain people or, it may even be by one person in particular.
In any case, how we experience being irritated by certain behaviours seems to bring on the same sort of reactions in us, and ways of interpreting and managing the situation and the other person. We might avoid or ignore the person, react with blame or call the person out in other ways. We may refuse to engage with them about the matter any more; we may try to justify our own words and actions; we may remain angry or whatever else we are feeling for indefinite periods. What is quite common is the tendency to attribute characteristics and motives to the person for doing what provokes us. These and other reactions are what I am referring here to as habitual. And this blog suggests that we can change the pattern – and when we do so new ways of interacting emerge.
From my coaching clients, I have found that one of the ways to make that happen is through increased self awareness about the habit and alternate ways of managing them. For this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog then, I suggest you bring to mind a ‘hot button’ – something that someone does or says, or how they ‘act’ in your view, their attitude etc. to which you routinely react.
- What is the behaviour that provokes you – resulting in you feeling and reacting in much the same way each time?
- How might you describe the feelings you experience about the other person at these times? In what ways, more specifically, is your reaction commonly felt or experienced in these instances?
- To what do you attribute the person’s reasons for acting in the way you described in response to the first question?
- What of the above reasons are absolutely correct as far as you know? Which might be incorrect or for which you don’t have a sure basis? What other possible reasons may there be ?
- In interactions when someone else does the same sort of thing – and you don’t react – what makes that dynamic between you different?
- What do you gain by reacting the way you do that has become a habit with certain people (or a certain person)?
- How might you prefer to feel at those times? How might you prefer to respond at these times? What makes these ways of feeling and responding not ones that come easily to you?
- To react differently, what do you suppose you might need to think about the other person(s) that you don’t feel now? What might you feel differently?
- What do you suppose you need to think and feel about yourself to change the habit?
- What might change for you in relationships with the people to whom you react – if you are able to change the habit?
- What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
- What insights do you have?