Last week, I shared Luskin's thoughts about grievances (the planes that will not land) and the preconditions to forgiveness. Now, the final reveal, how do we become forgiving?
CHANGE THE CHANNEL
The first step is to change our mindset. Luskin shares that most people are giving too much time to the grievances rather than focusing on gratitude and beauty. We need to change the channel from the negative things that have happened, to the beauty, nature, love and gratitude in our lives. Luskin suggests that the more we focus on the gratitude channel the more the hurts will diminish. If we can tune in to the positive channels in life we can help ourselves.
When you are in the moment and feel the pain from the unresolved grievance, Luskin recommends using Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique (PERT).
Changing the Channel and using PERT, can help to calm our minds. By changing from unenforceable rules to hopes / wishes, we can regain the ability to focus on what we wanted to achieve, rather than how we have been disappointed.
If you are reading this and thinking this sounds too hard, or not rigorous enough, I challenge you to read Luskin's Forgive for Good. I have used Luskin's techniques in my own life and can attest to their value. Am I always forgiving? absolutely not! However, when I have time and can focus, I know that I will feel better if I can use these techniques. I would hope that everyone I work with in mediation could have access to these techniques. If you are in mediation consider trying some of these ideas to find peace and to promote your own well-being. We have power and we need to stop giving it to others. Reclaim your power!
Luskin in Forgive for Good suggests that we need to find a way to land the grievance stories that keep circling in our minds. Not because we should forgive and forget, or because what happened wasn't that bad. Instead, Luskin asks us to choose well-being, empowerment and freedom.
So if this argument is so clear, why do we resist forgiveness?
One reason can be that we do not know how. The other can be that we have created a grievance story - a plane that cannot land. We have created an unenforceable rule (e.g. no-one should lie to me) and then someone we cannot control has broken the rule (e.g. lied to us, betrayed us). Luskin explains that instead of creating unenforceable rules, we can create hopes / wishes.
What can we do? We can acknowledge that in life we may be disappointed, that we cannot control other people's behaviour. We can set a positive goal for what we would like to happen, or not happen. By reframing the unenforceable rule as a hope / wish, we refocus on what we do want, and how to obtain that, rather than the disappointment.
Luskin recommends pre-conditions before we embark on forgiveness:
Next week, what are the steps we can take to be forgiving?
The game is afoot..to a Sherlock Holmes fan the words are instantly recognisable. Even without being a devotee it is hard to escape Sherlock, he is the most widely depicted fictional character in history and the number continues to grow (latest Henry Cavill). As a child I graduated from Nancy Drew to Sherlock Holmes with ease. Holmes may seem like an unusual topic for a blog about conflict resolution but stick with me.
Like all of us, Holmes is flawed. He is heroic and yet we can see the challenges he faces and creates for himself. He is exceptionally capable and yet can barely function in some settings.
Over the next few weeks, I will be looking at one aspect of his character and considering how this aspect can help or hinder us in conflict. It may also be that the onset of autumn makes me want to immerse myself in the stories and novels of Conan Doyle.
What is Holmes' most defining characteristic? although, I think you could make a good argument for his obsessive focus, his single-mindedness; his courage or his curiosity, for me it is his clarity of thought. From pieces of information, some seemingly irrelevant, Holmes is able to construct a picture of what is going on.
In Silver Blaze, Holmes considers the "curious incident of the dog in the night". This information is seemingly meaningless and is ignored by other characters. Holmes is able to focus on the implications of this small fact. He is able to consider the fact and then consider what this means and construct a hypothesis. He is driven by the information and then works to create meaning.
In conflict, people often work in reverse. We assign meaning to other people's behaviour and then we work backwards to seek out the words / actions which justify our assigned meaning. In this way we may feel an emotional truth and then use our rational brain to justify our beliefs. In conflict, this ability can become magnified. It can lead to entrenched views and flawed thinking. It can lead us to rationalise our negative beliefs - the other person is selfish, thoughtless, a narcissist, etc.
Leon Festinger was a pioneer in the field of cognitive dissonance. I have written in an earlier post about one of my favourite books, "Mistakes Were Made - but Not by Me". This book explores the way in which we use our cognitive powers to justify decisions we have already made. An error in thinking, of which I am sure, Holmes would steer clear.
In conflict, being more like Sherlock Holmes and working from data to theory can be more productive. Next week more Holmesian thoughts - including my favourite screen Holmes. Do you have a favourite Sherlock Holmes depiction?
If you are in a conflict or negotiation with someone who has a fixed and unyielding time perspective, what are some ways you can try and shift them to a more balanced time perspective? As a mediator, we are always seeking tools to help people to shift their perspective and to be in a position to consider all of the options. Based on the Zimbardo Time Perspective, below are some tools that may be useful to help someone shift appropriately to a more balanced time perspective:
What are some ways you may adapt your approach to other people in conflict or negotiation to take into account time perspective?
As with so many frameworks, there is no correct perspective, however for parties in mediation, it may be an issue to have an excessive focus on any one orientation at the expense of other orientations. In mediation, you can see how this may work in the room.
We cannot administer the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory on everyone we meet, but we can formulate a hypothesis which may assist us to support the parties in their mediation, or as a party to formulate options and proposals.
What time perspective is helpful to a party in mediation/conflict? Boniwell and Zimbardo suggest that a balanced time perspective is optimal for human functioning.
What does this mean?
A balanced time perspective is one where a person is able to shift flexibly between time perspectives depending on the task features, situational considerations and personal resources – as opposed to being biased towards a specific time perspective which is not adaptive, or even maladaptive.
In conflict, I think this means that people need to be able to accept the past has happened, be grounded in the reality of their present and be able to project into their future.
We can all think about conflict situations, where people, can appear to be cemented in the past and blame. However, much you try to shift them to a future focus they insist on returning to the past.
The challenges of this past oriented approach are apparent. Firstly it may stop some one from being able to consider options for the future and to move forward. They may continue to exist in a past negative orientation. It can easily derail a mediation or negotiation process. In extreme cases, it may antagonise the other party.
Next week, how can you help someone shift into a balanced time perspective?
The Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory originally set out 5, then 6 time orientations -with future negative added by Carelli to take us to 7:
For the present oriented they may focus on concrete factors in the immediate, sensory present while minimizing abstract qualities relevant to a decision that exists only in an anticipated future. It can be difficult for them to delay gratification and they may be easily distracted. They may be uninterested in considering the impact of their decisions today on future consequences.
For the future oriented the focus will be on reasoning, abstract ideas and a clear concern about consequences. They may be better able to focus on the importance of long-term goals e.g. how well adjusted their children will be following separation. They may be very focused on efficiency and micro-planning.
Next week, what does this mean in conflict and mediation?
In this new series, I will be exploring the work of Philip Zimbardo and his Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory.
You may recognise the Zimbardo name from the Stanford Prison Experiment. In 1971, in an experiment structured by Dr Philip Zimbardo, college students were randomly assigned roles as guards or prisoners in a mock prison. The experiment was abandoned after 6 days and attracted controversy.
During the experiment, Zimbardo says that he noticed that the students who were prisoners ceased to have regard to their past or future and in that short time began to focus on their present alone. Although the experiment was prematurely stopped, Zimbardo began to study time perception.
In his work, The Time Paradox, Zimbardo explains that time perspective has cognitive, emotional and social components. The formation of an individual’s perspective is influenced by various factors including: family of origin, cultural and social influences, personal experiences, professional training, etc.
Time perspective is a coherent framework we each use for living. The framework has been shown to impact attention, perception and importantly for mediators decision-making. Whilst this may be a personality preference it can also be influenced by situational forces.
Next week what are the 7 time perspectives?
In a difficult conversation, we know that our emotions will be engaged. The question becomes how to manage them. In the next few posts, I will examine some of the ideas that may be helpful in regulating and understanding our emotions.
For today, here are my top five ways to regulate your emotions:
in his highly successful work, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahnemann described how our brains work using two systems. A fast intuitive System 1 and a slow, rational System 2. In combination they work to help us navigate the world and stay alive.
The challenge is that System 2 is very energy expensive to run. As a result we make many decisions, below our level of consciousness with System 1. So far so good.
Unfortunately, System 1 is vulnerable to cognitive biases. We can use System 1 to create a story about what is happening and how we feel which may be based on biases. We then compound the problem by using System 2 to rationalise the 'emotional' decision we have made.
In conflict, people feel under attack and often find it difficult to engage System 2. It feels comfortable to rely on their System 1 intuitions and biases. There are ways to de-bias ourselves:
In and earlier post, I had recommended "How Emotions Are Made" by Lisa Feldman Barrett. She describes the Theory of Constructed Emotion, in which our brains predict what we need to do based on information they receive, models they have made and our past experience.
This seems counter intuitive. How can our emotions be constructed by us? when we feel as if we are reacting to what is happening around us? How can we be responsible for the distress and pain when the other person's behaviour has caused it?
These ideas can be challenging to accept. One way to think about it is considering how we feel based on the same stimulus. For example, imagine you are driving along a quiet road when out of nowhere a sports car swerves in front of you and disappears into the distance. How do you feel? Now imagine that instead of a sports car that was an ambulance? same stimulus but different emotional reaction. We are not passive receptors of emotion, we actively construct how we feel.
If you are heading into a difficult conversation, then you can help yourself by constructing more helpful emotions. For example, rather than feeling the tightness in your stomach and deciding that you are anxious and worried, tell yourself that you are excited. If you are excited the chances are that you will perform better than if you are anxious.