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Finding Peace in Conflict

Dr. Christian Conte’s tag line is finding peace with yourself and your world and I heard him speak on a podcast this week.  His dialogue certainly resonated with me, and I’m eager to share some of his communication theory as it coincides with my own.  Dr. Conte is one of America’s most accomplished mental health specialists in the field of anger and emotional management.  In July 2015 he conducted the TEDx talk, “Why I Chose to Go to Prison.” His latest book, “Walking Through Anger”, was released in October of 2019 and focuses on how to manage others’ anger and how we can successfully respond in conflict.

Dr. Conte’s Yield Theory™ is an approach to communication that centers on leading with humility and genuine curiosity to meet others where they are and get around their fight/flight/freeze response. His Yield Theory™ boils down to doing three core actions; Listen. Validate. Explore options, which he recognizes are simple to state but it all comes down to how you listen, how you validate, and how you explore options. As I also share, these actions sound easy, but are not simple and take practice to master.

Although his Yield Theory™ talks about these three core actions, it’s also rooted in these seven fundamental components that drive how we listen, validate and explore options.

  1. Acceptance: Acceptance centers on both accepting the narrative of other people, as well as accepting what they’re ready, willing and able to take in (i.e., their stage of change). In other words, meeting people where they are at. Acceptance begins with listening, and is reinforced through validation.
  2. Authenticity: To be authentic is to operate from the true self or essence, as opposed to operating from the ego. Our ego has the need to be right which can send us down the road of telling others. True authenticity is coming from a place of humility and being genuinely curious.
  3. Compassion: The word compassion means “suffering with” others, and when we lead with empathy, we display compassion. When you come from a place of genuine concern and are actively striving to understand others, you create the kind of psychological safety that allows people to be less defensive. This enables others to drop their guard.  They leave their fight/flight/freeze mode and that creates a real opportunity to connect and build understanding.
  4. Conscious Education: With conscious education, the goal is to support others to gain insight or knowledge, thereby helping them expand their consciousness. Having a breadth of knowledge in diverse areas is important for being able to add to what others know. Conscious education comes in most clearly during the third core action of exploring options.
  5. Creativity: In order to effectively meet diverse learners where they are, it’s crucial to be able to present information in ways that work best for them.  This can occur through integrating teaching tales, drawing on metaphors or utilizing counseling techniques. Creativity is a key to connection and helpful during the third core action of exploring options.
  6. Mindfulness: Mindfulness is essential to understanding both what you elicit in others and what others elicit in you. Mindfulness centers on the awareness of your thoughts, actions, tone of voice, physical presence, the situation, the other person, and everything present in a given moment. To be aware of how you impact others or are perceived by others is as important to communication as being aware of your own thoughts and how others affect you.
  7. Nonattachment: Nonattachment is perhaps the key to whether or not a person is actually practicing Yield Theory™. To practice nonattachment is to understand that you are not your thoughts and ideas. Attachment shows up when we become defensive when others disagree with us, challenge our perspective, or believe things differently than us. To be nonattached is to be truly open to learning in every given moment. Practicing nonattachment means that we are constantly open to letting go of our own narrative if new information demonstrates that the old information was not accurate. Nonattachment can be felt in a Yield Theory™ practitioner’s presence because there is no attachment to needing to be “right” about anything, and that constant openness to learning creates a psychologically safe environment that leads to circumventing others’ defensiveness and interacting effectively.Again, I want to stress that although these concepts are simple, they are never easy to master.  I have been working with these skills and principles for over 15 years and am always learning more about myself and better ways to respond in and with conflict.  It has, however, provided me with much more peace in the midst of conflict through the ability to listen with curiosity, validate narratives, create insights, build genuine understanding between others and support to develop successful solutions.  I hope that your own practice leads you to the same outcome.
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