Posts Tagged ‘defensiveness’

When you just can’t help yourself

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Your words aren’t making things better, and you know it. The conversation is escalating. You can feel the tension in your facial expression, and see the impact your words are having on the other person. But you just can't help yourself making things worse. So why can’t you seem to stop digging yourself deeper?

There’s a part of you that knows you’re not helping yourself. You’re certainly not going to look back on this and feel proud! This interaction is costing you, and it doesn’t feel good.

And yet there’s another part of you just can’t seem to stop. After all, you’re so worked up it would look kind of ridiculous if you were to just stop and admit you’re in the wrong.

What happens when you just can’t seem to help yourself – even when you know you’re fuelling the conflict?

Sometimes, the one you’re at War with is you

In a recent flare up with my partner, I found myself in exactly this situation. I knew I wasn’t in a great place, and I also knew exactly what I could do to help shift my mood. I could have taken a break, gone for a walk, listened to some music that would have put me in a better place. And yet, I found myself making excuses – that I “didn’t have time”.

If I was really honest with myself, I’d have admitted that I actually didn’t want to stop being angry. I knew I was behaving in an absolutely vile way, to someone who I really love and care about. I also knew I didn’t want to stop and change how I was being. I was seeing red, and lashing out – and like a child having a tantrum, I was refusing to listen to reason.

Then, something funny happened.

The power of taking a break

My partner left the conversation (and who can blame him? Being in the firing line is never fun!). I was on my own, and after about 5 minutes I realised all sorts of emotions were coming up.

I felt terrible. In fact, I moved straight away into a sense of deep guilt and self-criticism. “You’re a terrible person” I told myself, “How could you have said those things?”.

(Perhaps you’ve felt something similar, if not with a partner then a colleague, or someone innocently trying to help you – like a waiter or shop assistant.)

I felt a deep sense of guilt, and it made me realise that what had been underlying my outburst all along was this feeling of self-loathing. I’d almost go so far as to say that I’d engineered the situation that had triggered my bad behaviour so that I’d have an outlet for these feelings.

Put like that, you might be thinking it sounds like the actions of an emotional teenager – but it’s something more of us do as adults than we’d like to admit.

You are not your behaviour

But beating yourself up when a conflict is over doesn’t help the issue, and here’s why. If we could accept ourselves fully, we’d realise that our behaviour isn’t us. It’s just a symptom of how we’re feeling at the time. And the same goes for your thoughts – they’re not who you are.

Think of a time when you behaved badly and said things you later regret: perhaps by being angry, judgemental or critical.

There would almost certainly have been reasons for the “symptoms” you displayed.
I’m guessing you were either in physical or emotional pain. By emotional pain, I mean you might have been exhausted, hungry, sleep-deprived, grieving or hurt. All the times we’re not at our best.

So if you know you’ve behaved in a way that you later regret, there’s no need to become entrenched in guilt or shame. You can certainly own any harm or hurt you’ve caused, but you can also extend empathy to your past self. Under different circumstances you would have handled it better. When we can show ourselves compassion for bad behaviour, we’re able to do the same for those around us – and it can really change the way things are.

How to stop before it goes too far

One of the most challenging things about these moments is that when they’re going on we’re often very disconnected from what’s really happening. At War to Peace® we call it being “in the Red” and it’s a state where we have very few resources at our disposal.

So here’s something to play with – next time you become aware that you’re getting stuck behaving in a way you know you’re going to regret, just stop and give yourself 5 minutes.

Don’t try to change anything else about the situation, “talk yourself down” or admit you’re in the wrong. When you’re worked up, that can feel like the furthest thing in the world from where you’re at.

Instead, take a few minutes alone just to connect with how you’re feeling. Drink a glass of water, if you can, and let yourself tune in to what you’re feeling. Frustration? Anger? Sadness?

You might find this simple pause allows you to connect to a more resourceful part of yourself, without doing anything more than pressing “pause” for a few minutes.

Try it and see how it goes.

Time to change the script?

If you’re fed up of feeling like you’re stuck in conflicts you can’t seem to change, or just find yourself slipping into bad habits from time to time, why not come along to one of our workshops? Refresh your understanding of what causes conflict and learn simple techniques for transforming the way you communicate, whether you’re dealing with the most challenging people in your life, or the loved ones who bear the brunt of your pent-up emotions. Our next open-access workshop is in October. To book your place, click here.
Over to you

If you’ve ever found yourself in the midst of an awful argument, being perfectly aware that you’re not at your best but feeling oddly unwilling to stop it, I’d love to know: what usually snaps you out of the spiral and back to being yourself again? Share your insight in the comments.
War to Peace® workshops
Our award-winning War to Peace workshops happen a few times per year in London and our final one for 2018 is happening in October. Places are very limited so if you want to join us, book yours now. We also run in-house workshops and programmes for organisations all over the world, so if you want your people to thrive and work better together, click here to get in touch or call us on +44 (0) 20 8191 7072.
To be the first to hear about our new open-access workshop dates, and get free monthly tips and strategies for your relationship challenges, just leave your name and email address below.

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Know you’re losing your cool but somehow unable to stop? Here’s what to do when you just can’t help yourself getting into conflict



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©Halcyon Global 2018

Can you change a habit of a lifetime?

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Can you change a habit when it comes to challenging people in your life? I’ve noticed something happen time and again in the War to Peace® workshops I’ve held over the past decade.

A man's hands: Can you change a habit of a lifetime?Here’s what goes on: We break for lunch, and the participants head out to grab some food and headspace from the deep work we’ve been doing, becoming aware of how we’re being in the relationships in our life.

Some people decide to lunch together; others take a sandwich across the road to the park and recharge amid the ancient oaks, or explore the neighbourhood cafés.

We regroup for the afternoon session, and that’s when I notice it.

There’s almost always one participant whose face has changed entirely, almost beyond recognition.

Maybe they started the day with a worn, tired expression, and suddenly they look relaxed and awake. Often before I’ve asked them, they’re bubbling over to tell me what’s happened.

The reason is always the same: an internal shift when they’ve suddenly realised that a relationship in their life that they’d thought could never change suddenly feels different.

Can we really change the habit of a lifetime?

This kind of shift in perspective might seem far fetched until you’ve experienced it. And it’s definitely not “magic”, even though it can look like that from the outside.

The fact is, most participants don’t come to the workshop thinking about the really big relationships in their lives.

(Usually, the goal is to resolve something far closer to home: a dispute with a colleague, a neighbour, or a boss.)

But the tools we share are both practical and powerful, and once you become aware of what they can do, all sorts of new possibilities open up. You can read about Gordon's experience of exactly this here.

When we experience what it really feels like to be at ease with someone whose behaviour is challenging to us, without letting them off the hook, it’s inevitable that we begin to look at some of the bigger stuff.

That’s the change I notice on the faces of the people who come back from lunch with a totally different way of thinking about their dad, or their daughter, or their ex. Nothing about the other person has altered at all. What has shifted is how they’ve been able to move their focus from what the other person is doing, to what they themselves can do.

A real shift in what’s possible

There’s a huge freedom that comes when we are no longer waiting for someone to change or make amends in order for us to feel better.

Instead, we start to take ownership of our interactions. We’re not giving our power to the other person and so we’re able to be our calm, creative, resourceful selves.

We have more energy, more compassion, and greater capacity to focus on the things and people that matter to us (instead of the ones who drive us crazy).

What I love about sharing this methodology is that it can apply to any relationship we need it to. Big and small, from the people who’ve known us our entire lives to the new maddening hire in the office.

In the decade that War to Peace® has been around, thousands of people have come away from our workshops with a method that will help them navigate challenging and sensitive interactions in every area of their lives.

Curious? Find out for yourself

Our first public workshop of 2018 is on 2nd March and we have just 4 places left, so if you’re wavering, now’s the time to book! Click here to get your ticket and find out if you can change the habit of a lifetime. (And you have nothing to lose with our Wise Investment Guarantee, which offers you a full refund if you’re not satisfied*)

And to be the first to hear about our new workshop dates, sign up for our monthly blog posts containing tips and strategies for your relationship challenges.

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Can you change a habit when it comes to how you experience the most challenging people in your life? We're sharing the unusual experience we've noticed in several workshop participants




*Our Wise Investment Guarantee

If you leave one of our workshops and don’t feel better equipped to deal with the people you find difficult we will willingly refund your money. We believe wholeheartedly in what we do, we know it works and if it doesn’t work for you, we wouldn’t want you to pay us. If you are not satisfied with your experience, just return your course materials to us, give us some feedback on how we could have made it better for you and we will give you a full refund.

Is it you or is it them?

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Alison had experienced some tough office politics a few years ago and came to a recent War to Peace® workshop feeling very stressed. She had left that troublesome organisation but wasn't faring much better in her current company. She was now in her second role and explained that she had the constant worry that people were thinking the worst of her and talking about her behind her back. This made her edgy and defensive, which affected both her relationships and her productivity at work, thus often making her fear become a reality.

During the workshop, Alison described a recent situation at work. She explained that there has been an error in the numbers she'd been given to present at a recent meeting with senior members of staff. It was a minor mistake, she said, and easily rectified, but Alison couldn’t shake the worry that her colleagues thought her incompetent and she remained furious with the person who had made the error, even though she herself felt this was an overreaction.

When she saw three of her colleagues talking in hushed tones a little later, she became convinced that they were talking about her and she felt the familiar feelings of dread settle on her, accompanied by her defensive, reactive behaviour.

Perhaps it's nothing to do with you...

Alison explained that she often found herself reliving work incidents in her mind and re-experiencing the associated emotions of stress, shame and anger. The incident with the inaccurate figures and the subsequent worry was just an example of something that was happening on a very regular basis and bringing Alison into a mire of negativity.

Inspired by a question in the Pathway to Peace exercise at the workshop, Alison began considering the possibility that what people were doing and saying had nothing to do with her. This helped her to try something new. Each time she found herself interpreting a colleague’s perceived mood as having something to do with her, she would write a list of all the other reasons she could think of as to what else could be going on for them. For example, the staff members talking in a whisper could have been one of them sharing a personal problem, hand-325321_640talking about an illicit affair one of them was having or discussing a delicate health matter instead of talking about Alison’s presentation. The boss frowning this morning may have had more to do with the sun being in his eyes or the fact he had a headache than with the quality of Alison’s work.

By listing the many reasons that her workmates might be reacting the way they appeared to be, Alison lifted the heavy burden she'd been carrying on her shoulders. It also helped her to become less self-absorbed and consider that her colleagues may also find work challenging at times. This gave her greater capacity to focus on what she could do to help them and, at the same time, feel much less edgy and defensive. As a result, not only did her mood lighten considerably at work, her relationships with her colleagues become much more lighthearted and easier to deal with, meaning she was far more able to be the productive and competent manager she had always wanted to be.

Over to you

  • Could you be unfairly blaming yourself or others for what you perceive people to be thinking or doing?
  • What other reasons could they have to behave in that way?
  • Consider how these other possibilities could change your response to a more helpful one.

Do you know someone who could benefit from War to Peace®?

If you know someone who would benefit from recognising some alternative reasons for other people's reactions, our next open-access War to Peace® workshop is on 3 March 2017 and we have just three spaces leftTo book your place, click here.


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Is it you or is it them? Find out here.

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©Halcyon Global 2017


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