One of the tools I use frequently with conflict coaching clients, as well as for myself, is affirmations. Affirmations are brief positive statements that you can keep repeating each day, or even every hour. Affirmations express a willingness to change, an openness to seeing life and work differently. They are a way to transform the negative assumptions which are common in a conflict, and shift your thinking and feelings to a more benevolent way of viewing both yourself, and the challenging people or situations. And, the best part is, affirmations work even if you don’t believe what you’re saying when you start!
The Power of Affirmations at a non profit organization
I was hired last year to offer a customized training and coaching program for e board of local non-profit organization with some serious internal conflicts. After we agreed on a plan, everyone in leadership took part in a training series, so they all had some basic skills and understanding about conflict, communication, and letting go of past resentments. This started shifting their attitudes; as one of the board members said, I “showed them a different path forward.”
Once the trainings happened, I also did one on one coaching with the “flash point” people, two of the longtime managers whom I’ll call Cal and Barbara. They were in parallel leadership positions and needed to work closely together, but instead were repeatedly embroiled in disagreements around control and being right. Cal and Barbara had a lengthy and extremely adversarial relationship, rife with accusations and contradictions that spilled over into the functioning of the entire organization as people took sides, or ran for cover, or helplessly watched.
Self righteous finger pointing
Before the training, the two of them could barely be in the same room together. Each of them had an extremely biased and negative view of the other, supported by lots of “evidence” that they had crafted into a story in which they were the “good guy” and the other person was the problem. The two of them each believed implicitly in their own story, and were invested in self-righteous finger pointing, completely ignoring any evidence that contradicted their views.
Affirmations and transformation
Affirmations were a particularly helpful tool of transformation for Barbara. She felt very vulnerable, and lashed out with hard anger and suspicion, thinking this would protect her from being hurt. But, she had an established spiritual practice and had also successfully used affirmations before. Together, we crafted some affirmations to support her in transforming her mistrust of Cal. Here are the ones that resonated with her:
Reframing to Trust Affirmations
I trust that Cal has a spark of the divine, just as I do.
I trust that Cal is doing the best he can according to the best understanding and tools that he has.
I trust that with the help of a benevolent Universe, I can shield and protect myself AND come from kindness and compassion.
I trust that the Divine is in charge of me, Cal, the organization, and the world.
I trust that I only need to do my part, not the whole, and surrender outcomes to Source.
With trust and faith, I am willing to let go of the unhappy stories of the past and create a new one filled with gratitude and joy for my life today.
Barbara was inspired to do these affirmations every day. She said it got easier and easier to believe them. After two weeks, her stance against Cal appeared to soften and they were able to sit down and have a calm conversation. Of course, it takes a lot more skill building, practice and support to actually change the communication and assumptions in the long run, but the affirmations were a good start.