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Mindfulness in Conflict

The term “mindfulness” comes from Eastern spiritual and religious traditions like Zen Buddhism and is becoming increasingly prevalent in business studies in the West.

Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience. For example, a mindful approach to one’s inner experience is simply viewing “thoughts as thoughts” as opposed to evaluating your thoughts as positive or negative.

What if we could remove our judgement of what was said from who said it? Would the phrase – ‘the report looks fine’ sound different coming from the colleague you admire than from the colleague with whom you are in conflict?

In conflict resolution we often refer to mindfulness as ‘going to the balcony’. Taking the time to see the conflict as if you were on a balcony looking down on yourself as a participant in the performance on the stage can give you a new point of view. What might you see from up there? Would your perspective be different?

As indicated on The Third Side website there are three simple steps for Going to the Balcony :

Stop – Look – Listen.


  • Take time to prepare
  • Take a time out
  • Count to 10
  • Take a deep breath
  • Remember “Everything starts by stopping”


  • Look inside yourself – look at your natural reaction to take sides, ignore and escape.
  • Name your emotions. Have your emotions (rather than be them)


  • Hear your feelings out so you don’t have to act them out
  • Listen to understand
  • Use a friend or colleague as your ‘balcony’.

Going to the Balcony enables you to speak and listen with a measure of detachment. It allows you to be open to new ideas and possibilities. Practice the opportunity to go to the balcony and notice the impact on conflicts around you. Sometimes the simple act of witnessing a conflict, paying respectful attention to the parties and what they are saying, can shift the outcome.

Mindfulness also creates a foundation for deeper connection that allows you to be fully present and authentic during discussions. A mindful approach to entering difficult conversations keeps both parties out of the heat of emotions and able to explore and build understanding around the needs, values and interests on both sides. The goal is to suspend judgment to enable the mind to focus on, and look for the solution that will meet all parties’ needs.

Sounds simple, but it’s not that easy.  As the saying goes; practice makes perfect.

The Workplace Fairness Institute works to support organizations to bring mindfulness to conversations.

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