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Unlocking conflict: impact and intention

Have you ever heard a conversation between a couple or friends along these lines? “You’re so controlling. Why does everything have to be on your terms?” And the other one replies, “You’ve violated my boundaries!” How do we support such a conflict? In moments of tension and conflict, it can helpful to introduce a distinction between perceived impact and the intention behind the an action.

The impact on the other person is not necessarily what you intended when you chose to act. You may have had something else in mind. If you can acknowledge the impact on the other person, especially the emotional impact, there may be space for you to get understanding for your intention, for what you were trying to achieve.

What do people need after their well-being is impacted?

Stepping back for a moment, what do people want after something has happened to impact their well-being? They want to be seen and heard for what is alive in them. They want recogntion and acknowledgement for their perceived loss. This is what I mean by acknowledging the impact. It doesn’t mean that you agree with their assessment, worldview etc. It’s simply about acknowledging their experience.

So in the conversation above, this might sound like this, “Are you feeling frustrated and even angry because you’d like a say in what we do and when? Do you want freedom and respect?”

What do people need after they have been heard?

Once someone is satisfied that they have been heard and that their suffering has been acknowledged, they usually want to understand why you acted as you did. Here is your change to talk about your intention in acting the way you did. What was the ‘good reason’ you chose this course of action? Which needs were you trying to meet at the time? This can help in rehumanise you, in the mind of the other person, as a human being doing the best that you knew how in the circumstances. It may also support the other person in finding peace of mind.

In the conversation above, rather than, “You’ve violated my boundaries!”, it might sound like this, “I asked to stop the conversation because I didn’t feel safe any more, and I needed some space to get myself together.”

What needs to happen next?

Once we have listened for impact and intention, both you and the other person will be keen to ask, “What needs to happen next? What can we do to restore trust and connection? What can I/we do differently in the future?” Out of this may come a joint action plan.

In the conversation above, this might be agreeing a sign for when someone needs to pause the conversation; when and how will they re-engage?

What next?

For more information about how we use Restorative Circles here at Seed of Peace. For more information about couples mediation (online or in-person in Bristol, UK), click here. To book Shantigarbha and Gesine to host a Restorative Circle (online or in-person in Bristol, UK) for your family / community / NGO / business, Contact Us for rates and availability.