Now, before you light the candles and reach for your yoga pants, I'm talking mediation, not meditation. But you'd be forgiven for the confusion — mediation and meditation do share similarities beyond alphabetic arrangement, chief among them the goal of finding peace and tranquillity. Neither of which are easy to come by in our busy, stressful lives.
You're on overload; every day you're asked to navigate myriad disgruntlement, conflicts, and irritation, ranging from the minor "grrrr" to the major "I feel like I'm going to explode" moments. And they build on each other, layer upon layer of annoyance until you can't help but lash out.
"He's impossible to deal with, I can't take it!"
"She won't get off my back about that project, I'm gonna ring her neck!"
"If that grocery store cashier spends one more second wasting time with the person in front of me…"
Not very zen!
A million other thoughts zoom through your head as you encounter people during your day. And the real tragedy is that while you may be ruining their day with your eye-rolling or irritation, I guarantee that you're ruining your own. You don't actually want to be disgruntled with your co-workers, your family, or the check-out lady. All you really want is to find a little peace in your day, to face these challenges with calm and dignity. If only it wasn't such hard work to constantly keep your reactions in check.
I promise that there are ways to make dealing with these stresses easier, without having to become a professionally-trained mediator or a Zen Buddhist. You just need a few simple tips to help you master mediation and set you on your way to a more peaceful day, a more peaceful life...
How do I know these tips work?
Because I've been using them in my own life since I completed my first mediation training in 1997. I admit that I didn't start using these mediation tools right away — at the time I was steeped in my traditional litigation practice. But eventually I began to apply my new mediation skills at work and at home and — whoa — I began to see shifts in how I related to people and how they responded to me. It all felt so empowering!
Here are a few of the stealthy things I began to incorporate into my daily life:
- Listening with an open mind and heart. So often we're only half-listening to those talking to us, already formulating our own response before they've even finished their sentence, which makes it far harder to relate to what they're actually trying to communicate to us.
- Attending to the person I am listening to. No cell phone, no interruptions or other distractions — if you've ever tried to have a conversation with someone who has one eye on their cell phone, you'll appreciate this one as much as I do.
- Restating what I heard back to the person I am listening to — especially in situations of potential conflict, it's vital that you check your understanding of their point, BEFORE you respond.
- Acknowledging emotions — it's important to validate others' feelings, even if they don't match your own, instead of jumping straight in to defend your own feelings.
- Using "I feel" statements rather than accusatory statements, combined with feeling statements, when I am angry. So "I feel angry when you interrupt me when I am talking in the meeting because I lose my train of thought and have to start over" versus "Stop being a bully and interrupting me when I'm talking. You're so rude!" which may be satisfying but isn't helpful in the long run.
- Making requests when I want something to change instead of making demands or issuing complaints. So "I would like us to all be given the chance to finish what we are saying because it will help us finish the meeting more productively. What do you think?" versus "Stop being a bully and interrupting me when I'm talking. You're wasting everyone's time!"
- Clearing the air after disagreements. We all disagree. That's a given. But tending to the repair work needed after a disagreement is where the rubber meets the road. Resentments and judgments build each time we fail to tend to the relationship after an argument. After awhile, it may seem impossible to get back to a neutral zone with your partner, friend, or co-worker. That's why I use repair tactics like validating the other person's feelings, trying to find common ground when possible, or simply inserting a bit of loving humor into the situation by acknowledging it's ok to agree to disagree and move on.
These steps don't have to be a huge deal — subtly start trialing one or two tips at a time and note people's reactions. You'll find that you're much more able to cope with annoying situations in a peaceful, respectful way. And because calm and kindness breed calm and kindness, you'll likely find that you have fewer conflicts to deal with in your daily life.