I love to use real-life examples whenever possible, from customers, friends, or my own life; real life examples just make all messages more relatable and understandable. And this one here, well, it’s nuts but unfortunately, this conflict is all too real for me.
Early in 2019, I hired a new technology team to revamp the online self-care studio (where all of my programs and products live). The relationship was great at the start: friendly, professional, fun. Added bonus, these guys were good; our studio is custom-built, and this was a tough gig requiring a lot of learning on the front-end.
But then about halfway through the project, my intuitive ears perked up; something felt off. I started to sense that someone on the team was unhappy. I check in regularly with everyone I work with, and in this case, I kept getting the same response: “All good, we want to continue.”
But the feeling didn’t go away.
Soon the team (located on another continent) became harder to contact. They missed calls and deadlines that I’d I set (and re-set) in order to re-open the studio. When we did speak, I started getting comments like “We’re not charging you for what we could,” and “We’ve put in a lot of efforts for you.”
Needless to say, my confidence in our business agreement took a dive. I communicated this calmly, but directly, several times but hung in there. In my head, I kept hearing:
“You’ve worked so hard.”
“Their work product is so great.”
“Starting over with someone new would be such a pain.”
“We are so close!!”
Then finally, we had a (what would become our last) call; we were down to just three open items on the to-do list. So close to being done! After the call though, I was confused about the week’s billing hours; they didn’t seem to match the tasks. When I questioned it, I received a near-immediate response: “We won’t be continuing the project.”
Say huh? You quit? You’re done? With three tasks left in the queue?
I felt confused, shocked, deeply anxious. But for some reason after confirming the quit, I just said “Okay” and dove immediately into Plan B mode. No arguing or “Sorry, but we have a 2-week termination clause.” No “I won’t pay the last invoice until it’s done.” Just “Okay” and let’s do Plan B, which involved noting our contract end by email and wishing them well, paying our invoice in full, and sending a final message in reply to the threats, and yes, there were threats like “I’ll make sure you’ll never have your business working”. Deep breaths.
Why react like this? Why not fight back?
Simple: I’m a mom and I have limited energy. I didn’t want to waste it on something that was clearly not working.
I also know how energy works: if you put “ick” out, you get “ick” back.
So even after this abrupt ending, I knew that the first priority wasn’t arguing. It was looking out for myself and my business immediately. I felt incredibly anxious, but didn’t panic.
I chose to spend my resources on my own care, not conflict.
We all have this choice. In normal, everyday life, basic conflict rears its head in many ways. We have conflicts with our partners, with our children, with our parents, with our colleagues.
You might argue with your husband because you feel like you’re doing all the invisible labor. You might have a conflict with Comcast when they won’t give you an appointment to fix your wifi for a week. You might feel your blood pressure skyrocket when that other car cuts you off and almost hits the side of your car (the one that’s closest to your newborn’s car seat).
The chance to choose aggression, fear, and negativity is everywhere, all the time.
When you notice conflict creeping all up into your personal space, here are some tips to take care of yourself:
1. BE KIND: Act in a way that you can look back on and be proud of. Be careful what you say, or send in writing. Know that, under high stress, the chance for miscommunication is high because the cognitive brain isn’t always working. I re-read my responses to this person and felt 200% confident and happy with how I handled it.
*PRO TIP: If you feel heated, anxious, and about to blow, it is NOT the time to respond. Wait until you’ve finished a run or yoga class, or had a good night of sleep. Get to your happy place, then re-visit your potential reply.
2. STAY OUT OF THE MUD: A teacher of mine once said to me, regarding conflict: “When someone is playing in the mud, you don’t have to get down in there with them – then you’re both dirty.” Be objective, assess your stance, adjust if necessary, or stand your ground. Don’t let others drag you down, block your flow, or throw you out of alignment.
*PRO TIP: Keep in mind that often, this isn’t even about you! There is no conflict if you don’t participate in it. It’s a bit like watching your child have a tantrum – it’s a lot easier to be there if you don’t get sucked in.
3. REALIGN YOURSELF WITH YOUR CENTER: If conflict with someone else does knock you down, that’s okay. It’s human and it happens (especially if you’re an empath or particularly sensitive and compassionate). But this is where your expert self-care skills come in. Do whatever you need to, to realign yourself and feel clear.
*PRO TIP: Mantras are awesome here. For example, last week I used the loving-kindness meditation as soon as I saw a certain someone’s name pop up into my inbox (“May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be loved, may you have peace”). This doesn’t always give total relief, but it is a salve that retrains the brain back towards how you want to feel.
4. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE SUPPORTED: You are often supported by people (and forces) that you may not even see or sense in the moment. Within minutes of reaching out to my network, I had help. My brand manager, my friends, even the team who developed the software I use for the online studio; they all gave me support and offered to help. Sometimes being “left” can remind you of who matters most.
*PRO TIP: Ask for help when you need it. Even a simple text can help you feel supported.
Going forward, notice when others (or perhaps even yourself) fan the flames of fear, arguments, and aggression. Remember that this isn’t inherently bad – all feelings are allowed – and that it might not be about you at all.