How do you usually handle conflict?
Do you avoid?
Do you become passive-aggressive?
Do you play the victim?
Do you confront?
Do you blend?
I learned about the aikido concept of entering and blending during my MBSR teacher training:
Entering and blending is an aspect of mindful communication that is designed to help people break out of habitual reactions to threatening, emotional, or stressful interaction and instead blend with the other's energy in a way that reduces the conflict and does no harm to you or the other.
Entering and blending involves four steps:
Align- Put yourself in the other person's shoes, practicing mindful listening and asking for clarification if necessary, as in "I want to understand your point of view better. Tell me more about what's going on."
Agree- Find areas you can agree on , as you begin to look in same direction, as in "If I were treated that way, I'd be angry to", or "I am also disappointed about this situation", speaking only for yourself.
Redirect- Team up with the other person and work together to find a way to resolve the situation, as in "We're both disappointed about the situation. What can we do to make it better?"
Resolve- Explore what might be a mutually agreeable compromise, or just agreeing to disagree, as for example, "If I ate out less, could we get a housekeeper so we could spend more time together?"
Entering and blending also presupposes that you are mindful of your own internal state, to begin with. Giving yourself the space to notice first, rather than reacting immediately. This requires practice, and compassion for oneself:
One way to notice if you're reacting is by paying attention to your body. If anything is stiff or tense, you're probably reacting to your own discomfort and trying to avoid or ignore it. Use these physical sensations as a cue to acknowledge whatever thoughts and feelings are there, and bring yourself to the present by tuning in to the breath as it rises and falls. As you become centered and present, you make space to respond mindfully and with greater flexibility and creativity, rather than mindlessly reacting. As always, be patient and compassionate with yourself.
Entering and blending, the high road to conflict resolution.
(All quotes from A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein's new book))