The Power in Course Correcting
The stage has been set, you were triggered by something someone said or did, you “over” reacted. Now there is fire between you and the person who triggered you, so how do you recover?
Having a fight or disagreement is not the problem. It’s how we recover from them that matters. Conflict is just part of the game. It will always be there. So we might as well stop trying to avoid it.
The choice is up to you: Do you stand your ground, arms crossed, waiting for the other to concede, or do you remind yourself that your relationship is more important than your ego and that the strength and quality of the relationship is what matters? The power to change the course of direction from one of destruction to one of connection is within our reach. After many years of choosing the former, I now committed to the latter and I do that by course correcting.
Here’s how it works:
At the very moment when I realize that whatever way I behaved was not helpful to the relationship—at that exact moment—I remind myself, “Now’s the time to change the course of this direction”, so I reach for my phone or I walk back in the room and I acknowledge it by saying, “I am sorry. That did not represent who I want to be in this relationship. I think what I really wanted to say was_____. I was offended when you said _____because it brought up______in me.” You may not yet be sure why this exchange brought up the reaction in you that it did, so we will get to that in a minute. For now, we are just interested in changing the direction of the destructive course we have set in motion.
Saying this to someone immediately after they just offended you might be intimidating—it feels like you’re allowing whatever offense they committed to be OK–but you aren’t–you are giving them insight. You are letting them know what really happened and how they are affecting you. This is not a tool to blame them either. They were most likely unaware of the affect they had on you. We are all just bumbling through life in our own bubble occasionally bumping into each other, after all. Allow space for that and then let them know how you feel or you will be dealing with deeper resentments down the road. Who knows? You might even find they offer their own insights of what was going on at their end that you weren’t aware of. What a wonderful opportunity to get more intimate with a person you love!
If you aren’t sure about where the trigger came from it’s time to check in with yourself and get really clear and honest about what it was that triggered you. It wasn’t just them, it was something that was affected in you—so the answer is in you. If you listen in and ask yourself the right questions these triggers will tell you what they want. But you need to neither run from them, nor defend them. Welcome them instead. It is through understanding what your triggers are that your true intentions will be made clear.
–What is it that I wanted from this situation?
–What could the other person have given me that would have prevented that reaction?
–Ideally, given the current situation, how would I like this to play out?
–Does how I am engaging in the relationship now support me in being the type of person I want to be in this relationship? (Forget about the other person, we are only talking about you now.)
–How do I want to be in this relationship?
Here’s another helpful and important hint to keep your relationship on the right track: before you walk into the conversation be very clear about your intention. Take a moment to check in with yourself, “Is my intention to win or to strengthen or heal this relationship?”
Listen very deeply for the answer. If you want to win—and sometimes that might be your answer—then it’s probably best to work on some forgiveness or deeper soul searching for what you really are wanting from the other person first. (For more on that check out a prior blog post titled, The Trigger Trail.) If your answer is to heal, then use that as a mantra to yourself during the conversation. If the person is not responding the way you would like them to, that mantra will keep you on track and off the battle field.