Six Touchstones That Turn Conflict Into Gold
Does the thought of conflict make you cringe? You’re not alone! Most people have been hurt in at least one, if not many relationship interactions. If you want to create healthy relationships both at home and at work, you’ll need to learn how to productively deal with conflict. But how?
I’ve created 6 powerful practices that you can use in any interaction to transform your experience of conflict from something to avoid into a way to make everyone involved feel empowered and good.
The touchstones build from one to the next so please read them in sequence!
I call these practices “relationship touchstones” because I’m not telling you what to say or do in a conflict situation, but instead I’m sharing a mindset or approach that allows you to be powerful while also respectful of others, especially those most precious to you. Hold these practices like “touchstones” in your mind to remind you of how to be true to yourself and open to others.
Not a formula
By giving you the relationship touchstones instead of a formula or steps to follow, you now have a way to tap into your truth in any situation and navigate the conversation with grace.
With practice using the touchstones, you’ll build confidence in your ability to handle any experience in a way that turns conflict into gold. The key to this kind of relationship alchemy is to first connect with what you might call your essence or your life-force energy.
Develop healthy power
The first touchstone explains the difference between your essence (which I call your Best Self or Essential Self or IAM) and conflict (which I affectionately call Drama). When you know the difference between the best version of yourself, and the drama you experience, you can bring the healthy power of your best self to the situation.
Abundance and scarcity
Finally, it’s important to remember that your Best Self is connected with the infinite abundant energy of Life. Drama is connected with scarcity, fear, and limitations. I’ve included a description of the difference between abundance and scarcity at the end of this article, so you can see why connecting with the essence of your Best Self is so important when creating relationship alchemy. It truly can be like magic!
#1 - Be My Best
We are unique; we each have a unique purpose. Yet we can state the purpose for each of us exactly the same way: our purpose is to creatively express our best selves. It’s up to you to decide what this looks like in a way that’s unique to you!
Whether we are deciding on our career path, leading others to be their best, communicating in everyday situations, or creating a beautiful relationship, our ongoing ability to be our best is the key to success.
The True Self section of the IAMX Compass can be used as a guide to fulfill our purpose to be our best:
With IAMX, I use the following simple definitions:
Best Self = Abundance, Love
Drama = Scarcity, Fear
True Self Leadership = leading from your Best Self, learning from Drama.
If we experience the Best Self parts of ourselves, we will be our best. If we experience the Drama aspects of ourselves, we will experience Drama in our lives. What we believe determines which parts of ourselves we will experience, whether that’s the part of us that feels abundant, like we’re “more than enough,” OR the parts of us that feel “not enough.”
For example, you can believe “IAM energized and knowledgeable” and you will experience your best self. Or you can believe “IAM anxious and afraid” and it will be very hard to experience your best self.
The connection between belief and experience happens via focus: your focused attention amplifies your beliefs into how you perceive and act. Using the IAMX True Self definition again, if you focus on Drama, you will experience more Drama. I call this a Drama Orientation. If you focus on your Best Self and the Best Self of others, you will experience being your best - with yourself and others. I call this an Essential Orientation.
From an abundance perspective, there is more than enough time, resources, and energy for all of us to be our Best Selves. When we trust in the inherent abundance of life, there are more than enough opportunities for us to be our Best Selves; life generously supports us.
With scarcity, there is some sort of conflict at play between us being our best and another person, situation, or condition. For example:
- Either I get what I want or you do (I'll make sure I do) … or
- I'll sacrifice what I want for what you want (I'll be ok when you are) … or
- I can't get what I want so I'm a victim of circumstances.
The source of this conflict is the belief that we are not enough: good enough, deserving enough, doing enough. Conflict is inevitable when we don’t believe we are worthy of our deepest desires.
My challenge to you is to live knowing that your Best Self is your true nature and identity: IAM enough, I have enough, I do enough. You are inherently loveable; no external validation is required.
All of the IAMX Relationship Touchstones build on this foundational first: every person has a birthright to be at their creative best. Our beliefs, focus, and actions determine to what extent our best is possible.
My intention is for your best to be at the expense of no one, and indeed for your best to be for the good of those around you. There is more than enough time, energy, resources, and space for everyone to be at their best.
#2 - I Can’t Be Bad
When we are committed to being our best, we come face-to-face with the edge between our Best Self and Drama. Learning and growing into our Best Self requires moving through Drama: the fear and scarcity thinking that gets in the way of us being our best.
The single biggest challenge to being our Best Self, is that we forget who we really are. Instead of using the Drama around us as leverage and learning to be our best, we believe that Drama is who we are. (Or is who others are.)
Drama is not who we are!
While it is true that people are capable of doing terrible things, the more we focus on these terrible things, the more we create a Drama Orientation and the more we get sucked into a vortex of Drama.
Our attitude toward situations is the most powerful tool we have in being our creative best.
We have a choice in how we see things.
For example, the following Best Self beliefs contribute to a...
And the following Drama beliefs contribute to a...
As we stand at the edge of our Best Self we are ready to take the next step into the best of who we are becoming:
- in our career,
- in being the leader of ourselves,
- in asking the best of others,
- in communicating what we want,
- in creating the life we want.
If we doubt ourselves, if we overlook that we are good, if we forget that our core identity is our Best Self, we will stumble at the edge of who we know ourselves to be or get lost while living on autopilot.
Yet experiencing some Drama is a good sign if it doesn’t first scare us away! Drama indicates that we are on the edge of our best, poised to discover more about our true selves, ready to further know our most talented and resourceful selves.
If we are to grow into our Best Self ongoing, we need to get familiar with the territory of these edgy places of our selves.
It takes heartfelt courage to step over the edge; it takes self-love and self-compassion to make the most of doubt, blame, and fear.
When our intentions are to learn, grow, and heal, then we can’t be bad and it’s impossible to fail - whatever happens will be for our good and the good of others. No effort is wasted when we use our experiences as material to add to our knowledge and wisdom.
Keep in mind that living at the edge can be a messy place!
Others may not understand our intentions and project their fears on us. We will have to get used to the uncertainty, vulnerability, and bumbling we experience in the gap between the known and unknown.
The rewards are worth the mess:
accelerated learning, increased capacity, greater clarity, stronger collaboration, sustainable growth.
By remembering that we can’t be bad, every venture into Drama thus becomes a gift of learning, growing, and healing: a chance to connect more deeply with and live from our Best Self.
#3 - 100% Responsible
When we look to things outside of ourselves as the source of our current situation then we remove ourselves from the place of being able to do anything about it. We become a victim. We lose our ability to be our Best Self more and more over time.
Being 100% responsible does not mean taking on the weight of other people’s problems, judging ourselves as bad or wrong, feeling guilt for what is happening, or blaming ourselves for the ills of the world.
Being 100% responsible does suggest claiming the power we have over our own thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and assumptions to influence our experiences. It’s about owning our true creative, abundant nature. It challenges us to let nothing get in the way of being our Best Self!
This IAMX Touchstone is deceptively simple. You may say, of course I’m a responsible person! Yes, I’m sure you are. And …
There is always more to learn about being the creator of your best life.
I Am 100% Responsible is a challenge to step out of Drama, choose to be our Best Self, and handle any Drama from there:
So if we find ourselves stuck blaming or judging others, doubting ourselves, frustrated or angry or afraid to look at the truth about ourselves, we can know we are caught up in Drama, and not taking 100% responsibility. It’s almost impossible to learn or be effective from a place of defensiveness, suffering, or struggle.
The learning usually comes after we get some distance or perspective and accept whatever is true about ourselves or a situation, which can take some time.
100% responsibility takes great discipline. It’s a challenge to be at our Best Self most of the time: to be happy, joyful, productive, feeling good about ourselves and others, and to solve problems from this perspective. It’s a challenge to choose our best over Drama in a moment or as soon as possible. Quite a tall order, and it IS doable!
Getting from Drama to our Best Self can require navigating through a brick wall of obstacles:
Notice how the obstacles have nothing to do with other people, situations, or circumstances; they are all aspects of your mindset. A great question to ask yourself is:
What’s mine to heal?
By being honest about what’s going on and sorting through the bricks, we can use Drama to heal and clarify our deepest creative desires for ourselves, for those we care deeply about, for our business, family and more. The effort to learn from Drama obstacles will be worthwhile!
Most importantly, by focusing on our Best Self, rather than getting caught up in Drama unaware, we are choosing to take responsibility for our experiences: We wake up to the power and ability we have to discover our best selves and consciously create our best lives!
#4 - I Come First
Once we understand that our abundant best is good for everyone, Drama is a useful way to learn more about our best (instead of being a bad thing). We can take responsibility for the creative power that is our true nature, we can experiment with the energy of our Best Self.
Putting ourselves first is what allows us to shift our focus from Drama to our Best Self energy, rather than getting caught up in the scarcity dynamics of Drama.
The “I Come First” Touchstone is intended to get you exploring your true power and creative desires, so you can express your desires and give the gift of your best to others.
Everything in life flows more easily when we take care of our personal growth, learning, and health first, making sure we are coming from an Essential Orientation to the extent we can.
The simplest way to put our Self first is to ask the question: “What do I want?” in each and every situation we’re involved in, especially those situations where we might be blaming, confused, judging, or struggling: experiencing Drama of any kind.
I know that this question might seem selfish, but it’s only selfish from a Drama Orientation where either/or dynamics are at play: either I get what I want or you do.
From an Essential Orientation, asking “What do I want?” becomes the single most important action to take to anchor ourselves in our Best Self, our IAM that honors mutual and collective intelligence.
Wondering what career path to take? Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
Struggling to communicate confidently with others? Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
Developing leadership skills to inspire others? Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
Involved in a bizarre situation of dysfunctional behavior? Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
Challenging others to be at their best? Ask yourself, “What do I want?”
What do I want?
A great way to practice “I Come First” is to list 10 things you want each morning so you proactively connect with your Best Self.
I also highly recommend mediation as a way to build this connection.
Now, from a place of calm and clear connection with the deepest aspects of our Essential Self, our IAM, our interbeing, we can better respond to further questions such as:
- What is the deepest truth about what I really want?
- How do I listen to others knowing that what I want will come?
- How can I best communicate my hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties?
I do understand that this question ‘what do I want?’ can be tricky to answer, especially if you haven’t spent much time and energy thinking about it or if you have beliefs that discourage you from this type of self-respect and self-care.
Or maybe you have asked for what you want and it’s not happening. If you don’t believe the universe is a safe, loving, and supportive place, it will be challenging to see what you want happening.
In these types of situations, we like to play with the statement:
I always get what I want or something better.
In other words, even when we don’t get what we want, we’re getting the Drama we need to clarify what we might more deeply want – that serves a greater good. It’s all in how you look at it and it helps to bring a sense of humor!
By putting our Self first, and by clarifying what we want, we create the ongoing discipline needed to take 100% responsibility for being at our Best Self so we can create the life we want.
#5 - We’re Always Working For Each Other
My goal for IAMX participants is for you to be continually exploring and enjoying your True Self and the True Self of others, where True Self includes both your Best Self and Drama. With IAMX True North, the second section of the IAMX Compass, I offer the idea that a spark of energy or aliveness is a good indicator of whether or not you are investing your life-force energy in ways that bring out your best.
When we experience Drama with other people, instead of a spark of energy we may instead ‘trigger’ behaviors in each other that are not effective and/or emotions that don’t feel good. One of our tendencies can be to make these people and situations around us bad or wrong.
We may want to avoid Drama because it doesn’t feel good and that can be appropriate… except for when Drama is useful which is most of the time.
When creating the True Self section of the IAMX Compass, I originally chose purple, my favorite color, for Drama – to give it honor and respect. IAMX colors have evolved since then but the sentiment remains:
When it’s hard to see the brick walls we put between each other, the people around us can be exactly the mirrors we need to see our Drama patterns – how we get in our own way. Drama deserves honor and respect. For example:
The quickest way to discover the next level of our Best Self potential is to know that the people around us are always working for us, especially those who have triggered big emotions in us.
Noticing how we see others or how others see us can be a great way to identify our brick wall thoughts: the judgment, blame, confusion, victim beliefs, resistance, and attachment (expectations) that keep us separate and disconnected.
We are constantly either sparking or triggering each other. We have control over how we see and use these experiences. By playing with the statement:
We are always working for each other
we can learn to shift from being controlled by Drama to being in-charge of Drama – leveraging the mirror Drama gives us on those pesky brick walls.
One of my favorite sayings as I’m working through a bit of Drama is:
How’s s/he working for me?
in a playful and challenging way. You never know. The person or situation that ‘caused’ your Drama may be exactly the key to the next step in your career, the thorn in your side that unleashes your passions, or the opportunity to heal your broken heart.
“We’re always working for each other is” a useful thought when maximizing the learning and development we can achieve from simple, affordable, everyday circumstances.
Please know that I am NOT encouraging you to seek out or purposefully cause Drama, to inflict harm, or to make fun of people of in the midst of Drama.
I am challenging you to more and more become the ultimate cause of everything you experience. The ability to see the benefits of our humanity to each other allows the conditions and situations around us to become gifts in discovering our True Self.
#6 - Play Every Day
One of my favorite exercises is to ask people what it looks like, feels like, tastes like or smells like when they are at their best. People’s answers are surprisingly similar, and always include fun, humor, play, or similar words.
It’s common sense: we’re at our best when we’re having fun.
The farther away we get from humor and play, the farther away we get from learning, growth, and health. Seriousness can be like a wedge that drives us farther into a vortex of Drama. I like to say:
Struggle is Optional
Let Your Brilliance Shine!
Drama is always an invitation to see something about ourselves more clearly and how we engage with the world. It does not need to be a mandate to suffer. I like to decline invitations to struggle!
Play is one of the best ways to ensure that Drama is an opportunity or challenge, rather than a way to create more Drama about the Drama!
Play can be frustrating, especially to those determined to be serious about Drama. So don’t be surprised if people resist your playfulness.
Of course there are some circumstances that require us to be serious. And yet even in dire situations, humor can be just what’s needed to light the way forward.
Every day life is like a learning laboratory, a playground! When we use every day situations as if they are lessons perfectly designed just for us, we build confidence little by little, preparing for bigger events.
Play is the perfect way to practice all of the previous Touchstones. When we take playful action, we make ideas come alive and become real. We begin to embody our Best Self more and more over time. It’s a slow, steady process because we want to learn step-by-step what it looks like to remember, discover, create, and express our best.
It’s important to remember that our creative desires and authentic expression are what we are ultimately playing with in all that we do. Life, including work, is fundamentally about exploring our creativity.
One of the biggest frustrations we can experience is how long it’s taking to experience something we deeply desire. The more passionate we are about what we want, the more important it is, the more frustrated we can get. It helps to play with the slow, organic, and natural pace of what’s happening in our lives – exactly as is.
It helps too to know that nothing is wasted, we can’t fail, and we can only learn, grow, and heal.
Life is experimental!
It’s all about generating data that we can use in our creative, playful adventures.
We are all being our Best Self when we play:
- We are innovative and creative
- We see more possibilities
- We are charismatic and enjoyable
- We are more likely to get what we want
My challenge to you is to play every day, so you can let your brilliance shine, let yourself be human, and…
Give all of us the gift of your True Self.
If you are truly committed to being creative and innovative in your work, then playing every day is one of the most important things you can do. Maybe I should have made it the first Touchstone!
Consider this Touchstone in the context of your current work situation, whether that’s growing as a leader, preparing for a promotion or new business venture, or amp’ing up a job search. You will create more opportunities of you play!
Abundance and Scarcity
Abundance – There is plenty of everything. There is more than enough. The nature of creation is infinite, loving abundance.
Scarcity – There is not enough, there won’t be enough, or there is never enough.
Abundance means there are infinite resources always available to us all. This informs our relationship with everything; material resources, space, time, love, people … all the basic aspects of our experience. Personally, it translates into “I am enough, I am good enough” as the essential and inherent quality of my being. And even more, it means I am infinitely loveable and resourceful. Consequently, abundance consciousness promotes a sense of self that is increasingly relaxed, confident, brilliantly creative, expansive, and loving. It promotes a growing sense of profound trust in myself and the world I inhabit. I feel safe and loved, and I have unconditional inherent worth.
Scarcity means ‘not enough.’ There is not enough time, space, material resource, love, etc. It informs my sense of self as it translates into “I’m not enough,” “I’m bad,” “I’m flawed,” or in the extreme, “I’m worthless.” Within scarcity, self-worth is always conditional. The effort to earn love and validation is endless. Scarcity consciousness creates a constant state of fear, of anxiety, of distress. It keeps us in a perennial state of fight or flight. It is the root cause of the struggle and conflict in our lives. In its extreme, it is a state of being that is perpetually contracted and unhealthy.
Practicing the Path of Abundance
Self-affirmation is the start point in practicing the path of abundance. Self-love is fundamental to our health and fulfillment. Negation of our selves is detrimental to us all. Self-love begins with the basic recognition that I am a beautiful and wonderful being of infinite creative potential and power. I am inherently good, worthy, and loveable and therefore I can’t be bad.
As I affirm myself in this basic way, it is natural and easy to affirm the beauty and wondrous qualities of everything around me. By constantly choosing a loving relationship with everything, beginning with myself, I understand the true meaning of “being in love.”
Whatever I give energy to, increases in energy and becomes greater in my experience. Whatever I consistently affirm becomes more real. Thus, affirmation is the basic pathway of manifestation, the way I create my experience, and my reality.
Celebrate, Explore, and Clarify Desire
Desire is inherently good and the engine of all creativity. When I playfully explore my desire with self-love and honesty, I discover my deepest and most authentic desires, my life purpose. From that place of clarified desire, which is my higher good and greatest fulfillment, I move with ease and grace to manifest what I want.
I realize that what I authentically want is not only good for me – it is good for everyone. Likewise, I recognize that the authentic desires of others are good for me. In this way, I create synergy with everyone.
True Power and More About the 100% Rule
When I assume 100% responsibility for my experience, I begin to claim my true power. I understand I have the power to choose my response to any situation. When I take full ownership of my experience and eliminate blame of self and others, I understand more and more that my true power is my ability to create my life however I want and choose, and I transcend the cycle of victim and victimizer. As I realize that I can use this power proactively, I move into the creator mode of consciousness. I truly am the author of my own experience. When I cultivate the awareness that I exercise this power within the framework of a loving, cooperative universe – everything works for me – I progressively eliminate all obstacles, adversaries, and enemies from my path. I realize that true power is “power with” instead of “power over,” and I stop creating struggle and conflict in my life.
Conversation Using the Touchstones and the Practice of Abundance
When we use the IAMX Touchstones and our abundance perspective in conversation, conflict becomes an opportunity to learn, grow, heal, and have fun. There is no formula or series of steps to use in the process; just use the practices we’ve described and get creative!
Drama that includes emotionally charged conflict is one of the most difficult kinds of conversations to have and can be the most scary. I recommend using the IAMX Relationship Touchstones as much as possible before this type of conflict, so you can bring your growing confidence and experience to the discussion. Remember to work through your triggers first as much as possible.
It can be useful to keep in mind this quote from Rumi:
Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there
Conversations that turn conflict into gold are ones where we explore how to support each other in being our best, ‘out beyond’ the fixed ideas and need to control that keeps us rigid and inflexible. ‘The field’ is a real place of infinite possibility and creative expression that is accessible via connection with our essence or Best Self – within our selves and each other.
When you experiment with “everyone always gets what they want or something better” you learn how what you want is good for others and we get creative in exploring how together.
Ironically, while being flexible we also want to stand firm in our connection to our Best Self, and claim our IAM in the process. We don’t take a stand to defend or protect in a conversation. The goal is to strengthen and heal our relationship thru love which is the true nature of our Essential Self.
Compromise and sacrifice are not necessary when we live from abundance. When you stand in your Best Self and come from your IAM, it becomes clear where it’s right to be flexible and creative and where it’s not. The word “sacrifice” is highly misunderstood: its origins are “to make” and “holy” so it doesn’t mean to suffer, but instead to “make whole” which is what happens in the conversations we describe. You become “more whole” as you connect with and remember your IAM.
Further, the more you live from your IAM, clarify what you want, and explore this in creative conversation, the more flexible you will become. You’ll discover you are happy with the simple things in life, you enjoy each other immensely, and you actually need a whole lot less to feel satisfied and fulfilled.
Imagine living, being, and discussing from knowing:
IAM enough, I have enough, I do enough
and then bringing the fullness and peace of this ‘knowing’ to your experiences.
Conflict becomes an opportunity for creative expression and exploration from this perspective. Problem solving, collaboration, or simply having a good time becomes fun and easy.
Conflict shifts from being something you avoid to opportunities to spin gold and create magic!
Want to learn more about how to use the IAMX Touchstones? Please schedule a complimentary one-on-one conversation with Karen here.