We need helpful ways to move through difficult conversations in both our personal and professional lives. Join Patrick Veroneau and Rosalie Puiman as they delve into the power of a mindful approach to conflict. Rosalie speaks about her new book, The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution. Mindfulness is a powerful way to approach conflict and effectively deal with those involved in various scenarios. Rosalie discusses what a monkey mind is and why it’s hard to let go. In this conversation, we will explore the beautiful benefits of having a mindful approach to conflict and how it can help organizations to grow. If you have experienced a type of conflict that has been unproductive, then this show is for you.
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Rosalie Puiman Discusses The Power Of A Mindful Approach To Conflict
Mindfulness And Conflict Management Create A Powerful Combination For Effective Resolution
If you’ve ever experienced any type of conflict that maybe has been unproductive, then this is the episode for you. I’m speaking with Rosalie Puiman. She is a Transformational Leadership Coach and also an expert in mindfulness. In this episode, we’re going to talk about her new book, The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution. The conversation was awesome. She provides so many pearls, resources and explanations on a model that she’s put together called Pause and how that can provide such a powerful approach to how we effectively resolve conflict. I would go on to say that how we create better relationships with each other as a result of the behavior that she’s going to talk about. Let’s get into it.
Rosalie, I want to thank you. I have been looking forward to this in terms of your book. When we started talking about this, mindfulness and conflict don’t often seem to go together. To start out, I’d be curious, what was your decision in writing this book specifically around mindfulness with conflict?
Thank you for asking, Patrick and thank you for having me. I love your show. I’m happy to be here. I work with leaders every day and I’m surprised at how hard it is for people to have difficult conversations with each other, to talk about the things that truly matter. In mindfulness, there are beautiful benefits, for example, presence and the beginner’s mind that are helpful for people in saying the things that they truly want to say to each other without losing their connection to one another. If you can do that, working through a conflict or a difficult conversation makes it so much easier. It’s much more simpler and you get to solutions or ways forward that are a dozen times better than when you would go in a conflict or difficult conversation to solve it and get your needs met. Even though it may sound like a long stretch is straightforward when you think about it.
I had the opportunity to read this ahead of time, which I was grateful for. There were many different perspectives on it that I appreciated, but you hit on one of them that I’m hoping we can talk about and that was the beginner’s mind. What is the beginner’s mind as it relates to conflict and mindfulness?
The beginner’s mind is a state of being where you basically approach things and people as if you’re meeting them for the first time. In conflict resolution, that is helpful because so often we come to a difficult conversation or a conflict full of ideas about how things were and how things might be in the future and where they might need and our opinions about the other person. If we can adapt the beginner’s mind, however, we can shift our way of being in a conversation to one of curiosity exploring what is happening in the conversation instead of being in our mind all the time thinking about what we experienced before with this person or around this topic.
It’s interesting the way you say that because when I think of that, to me, it sounds like you’re almost hitting the reset button, which can be very difficult at times. As I was reading this, one of the parts that had come up around that, a lot of thought that I had was around work that I do as it relates to conflict is around unconscious biases that we come to situations already with predetermined ideas in terms of the way things can go or who we’re dealing with.
I understand. That is true. When we do that, the direction in which we say the conversation is more or less pre-setup already. By hitting that reset button, taking on that beginner’s mind, we can have a look at the person sitting in front of us from a more personal and more appreciative outlook instead of with stereotypes and things that we formed through all sorts of input like the media, upbringing, or whatever. We can be with the person we are having a conversation with. We ended up making so much of a difference.It is so rewarding when we basically step into the undercurrent of a conversation. That is where our iceberg meets the other person's iceberg. Click To Tweet
You mentioned in the book the iceberg analogy, which I think speaks to this. I was wondering if you could go into that a little deeper in regards to how does that fits around mindful and conflict.
I say in the book that people are a little bit like icebergs in the sense that only a little part of us when we look at the research, only 10% of who we truly are, we show in a normal conversation with people. Our skills, behavior and knowledge and this is the level where we interact with people. Right below that level, there’s a second layer. You could say the first layer that is below the borderline. If you look at an iceberg, there are so many showing, then there’s a borderline. The level right underneath that is where we find everything that we think about other people or about ourselves. This is where we would find norms, beliefs and values.
You would also find your self-image there. This is a conscious level. This is what we could reach if you would think about it and then there’s the third layer. The third layer is much deeper down in that iceberg, much deeper below that borderline. This is where we find personality traits, deeper motives, and also those unconscious biases that you talk about. This is a level that is more related to what we want and need in life. As you point out, this is where we have our stereotypes and ideas about other people that are not necessarily grounded in facts or our rational ideas about it, but they are there and they influence us from underneath borderlines.
We must be aware of that in our complex and difficult conversations. All these three layers have an impact on the conversation that we’re having. Even our most unconscious biases are present in our conversation. The more that we work on ourselves, more self-development that we do, more of our underlying layers we basically uncover. The more conscious that we become, the more conscious that we are, the less unexpected influences we have from our layers in that water line.
It’s interesting when you talk about that too. Even that top 10% is oftentimes only the part that we want to show of ourselves. If we look at social media, that’s what it’s about. You look at Facebook or Instagram or any of these, nobody puts out there, generally, all the things that they don’t like about themselves. It’s always the best. It’s filtered through six different pictures, which gives us an unclear perspective on who the individual is. Self-awareness is important but difficult at times. It does take a lot of practice to be able to recognize that I need to look below the surface. Again, I love the analogy there of the iceberg is that if we think about it, icebergs are in cold water. To put my head under the water to see where others take work and also it can be painful.
You’re right. It can be painful. It is a lot of work. It does take an effort. On the other hand, it is rewarding. Basically, when we step into the undercurrent of a conversation, that is where our iceberg meets the other person’s iceberg. It’s almost like a superpower. If you are able to put your head underwater and live through that pain of investigating yourself and also investigating the other person, their needs, and being open to allowing them to share what it is that they feel about something or what they need in a situation. You are so present with them that you can almost start to feel what it is that they are feeling, you open up to solutions or ways forward, as I like to call it, your hardest challenges that you’d never expected. In the book, it’s called synchronicity. Solutions come up that you never even thought of before. Maybe there’s a win-win way forward that you never consciously realize was there. By being underwater with the other person, we can bring solutions or ways forward can come up and you become aware of them. That is beautiful.
You mentioned in your book the monkey mind. As you talk about that, I’m wondering, is that where the monkey mind shows up in maybe talking us out of being able to do that?
The monkey mind is out of everything that it feels is challenging to us or maybe dangerous to us. Our monkey mind is a concept that it’s basically are chattering our minds. It can be chatter like, “I have to go grocery shopping, pick up my child or have a conversation with someone else about this or that,” while you were having with the person that you’re having. The monkey mind can be distracting us. It can also be that the monkey mind is talking to us from basically our deepest fears and our personal challenge is our most critical voice. Our monkey mind will try to focus on anything that is courageous and brave. It will do that. It’s not that hard to catch it. It is hard to let go of it. That is a challenge that we’re all facing. It’s one of the most helpful things to become aware of that monkey in your head. When we are listening to that voice of ourselves, we cannot be present, listen, find a solution or a way forward that is helpful.
The monkey mind is our way of self-preservation. To me, it sounds like that reptilian part of our brain that tries to keep us safe when it’s not logical anymore. I love the monkey mind and probably going to use that more now. I will often liken it to a smoke detector in somebody’s house. That, to me, is our monkey mind oftentimes. If a smoke detector goes off in your kitchen when you have burnt food on the stove, you don’t run out into the street calling for the fire department because you know it’s not a real emergency. Our monkey mind doesn’t do that. It will simply treat it as though it’s a real threat and there’s a real fire.
It definitely is the reptilian part of us and trying to keep us safe. It’s sometimes helping us on a level that we needed help. Oftentimes, when we were much younger and found ways to be safe even when we felt unsafe. It requires a lot of loving, kindness to work with our monkey mind saying, “I hear you. I see you. Thank you for keeping me safe, but right now, I’m not in danger.” It requires that adult sense of being a little bit outside of ourselves, not getting into that monkey mind.
One of the other things that you mentioned here that I see more and more of is the roles that we play and you go into detail in regards to what’s called the drama triangle.
Do your readers already know about the drama triangle?
No. I’d love to have you speak to that a little bit as well.
I love it too. It’s basically a role play that we would engage in our most drama, intense relationships. There are three roles that we can play in a drama triangle. The first one is the victim. As soon as somebody takes on a victim role, the victim being the one person who feels it’s all not their fault. They are always at a disadvantage. They feel they have no power to change the situation that they’re in. As soon as somebody takes on the position of the victim, there’s an immediate appeal to the other people involved in a conversation to take on one of the other roles.
The other roles are either the rescuer and that is someone who always offers solutions. They don’t only offer it. They sometimes even create a solution or they solve it for the victim. That’s the rescuer. The other position is the persecutor. They basically add to the already dense and smoldering situation by putting on a little bit of extra finger-pointing and attack. They are not helping right. The rescuer is helping, but the downside of the rescuer sounds nice. What the rescuer also does is reinforcing the idea of the victim but they don’t have the power to solve things.Every time we listen to our team members, we raise awareness and appreciation. Click To Tweet
The problem with this drama triangle is that as soon as somebody gets into the victim role, the other people immediately automatically get into one of the other rules. As soon as people get into roles, as you can imagine, it’s not an authentic, conscious, aware conversation anymore where basically it’s almost cryptic. To be able to work through your challenges in a mindful way, the drama triangle is the exact opposite of that.
I almost find too, with the drama triangle, that the rescuer is somebody that is using the victim to deal with their own issues that oftentimes similar to the victim. “It’s not me. It’s this person who wants to talk about this,” when it’s like, “I’m the one that has the issue, but I’m going to use you.”
It’s quite funny. I’m a rescuer. That’s my preferred role to get into. I can speak about that a little bit. Many rescuers don’t understand that. However, it is true. Rescuers often deal with their problems through pushing or shoving solutions through the throat of the victim and making them more helpless basically.
When we talk about this, you mentioned in the book demonstrating vulnerability. You need to come to a place where you are opened up in a way that you’re making yourself vulnerable. That I think maybe at times what concerns people gives people the fear of, “If I demonstrate vulnerability, I’m going to be taken advantage of.” To me, it’s the opposite of that. I think it demonstrates tremendous courage and strength when you do that, but I’m sure that you see that. I’d love your perspective on that as well as how do you help people work through that?
It’s not an easy thing to work through, to be honest with you. It is deeply ingrained in our society that vulnerability is a bad thing. It’s something to be avoided. I think luckily, Brené Brown has done beautiful work on The Power Of Vulnerability. Vulnerability requires so much courage and personal strength. At least the way that I see it, you cannot be vulnerable and weak at the same time. People who express that vulnerability in a conversation with others have such deep personal presence. They are so connected to their inner being. They have this very strong centeredness about them.
Vulnerability when done in a sincere way and not as a trick because sometimes, I’m afraid that vulnerability can be seen as a little trick. I’m telling you something as manipulative that may seem vulnerable to you. I’m buying myself into what we could call a mindful conversation. That is not how it works because true vulnerability is, in its essence, completely sincere. When someone sincerely expresses their vulnerability, what they are afraid of or what they are struggling with is immediately searching for the right way of expressing. It lowers people’s guard. By being vulnerable, you invite others to open up as well, know where their guard and open their heart. From there on out, the rest of the conversation is much more beautiful way.
I will often challenge its even past vulnerability. I think when we demonstrate intentional vulnerability where I’m actively putting myself in those places where I’m going to say, “I’m sorry. I don’t know the answer. I’m scared. I’m frustrated,” whatever it might be. I think from a leadership perspective as well when somebody says that. Do I want somebody every day coming in saying, “I messed up again, I don’t know where we’re going?” That’s not the person that I’m going to follow, but certainly somebody that has the courage to be able to say that. What it demonstrates to anybody in that group is it’s okay to not have the answer. If this person can do it, I can say when I’m afraid or when I don’t have the answer or I’m sorry. All of those things.
That is where we need to go. That is the new leadership paradigm that we’re looking for.
You mentioned in the book the skill of listening. To me, you mentioned the idea of a superpower. To me, listening is a superpower. I’d love to hear your perspective and as you’ve talked about in your book, the importance of listening. Again, I think listening is probably similar to when you talk about vulnerability and it being seen as a trick or as a manipulation tool. I’m going to pretend like I’m vulnerable, but I’m not. That can happen with listening as well.
Absolutely. People understand that they need to be stale and not speak when the other person is speaking. However, when we do that without understanding why we should be listening to the other person, if people are quiet, there’s a lot going on in that head. We talked about the monkey mind before. There’s a lot of monkey mind stuff going on when people are quiet and listening or at least try to be listening. Oftentimes, people start listening to their monkey mind instead of to the other person. It is a problem when that happens. There are many different types of listening that I talk about in the book.
This first type of listening is basically people are listening to reply. They are rehearsing in their head what they are going to say when in a minute, you are done talking. There are many different types of listening and they go from understanding the other people or the other person. It goes through connecting with the other person in this very emphatic way of listening. There is also listening that is focused on finding a way forward.
I think we are touching on that superpower that you speak about because when you start listening to what is happening for the other person, it’s even a step beyond empathic listening or listening for the emotions that you hear to what other person’s needs. What values or ideas about themselves are being hurt by what is going on here? You are on the deepest level of the iceberg at that moment.
You try to grasp what makes the other person think that is safe and then when you get at that level, there’s one more thing that you should be doing, and that is listening to yourself. That is one of the elements of listening in a conversation that is so easily overlooked. Listening to what is going on inside you is also a very important factor in solving a difficult situation. If you take all the sides of listening and especially that one where you find a way you’re disempowered a way forward, and when you are listening to what is going on inside of you, what you need, and what you’re picking up from what the other person is saying, then you get to listening as a superpower.
Along those lines, one of the things that stood out to me, and this was in the beginning of the book, is that you spoke about coming to conflict with the belief that both people can be right.
That is such an important paradigm shift. It is what makes all the difference. If you understand that from your perspective, you are probably 100% right about what you have experienced, what you see, want, and need. Also, from my perspective, I am probably 100% right. The thing is that both our rights can coincide next or can be their rights alongside each other at the same time. This is called the end stem. It’s a concept where you can be right and I can be right. There’s maybe an example that’s helpful. Let’s say a real-life example. My husband and I and our children are going on a holiday. I’m always a little bit stressed before we travel. My husband isn’t and invited some friends from Berlin to come over to our house for dinner. This is a difficult situation of the end stem. My husband says, “I haven’t seen these people for a year. They are in the Netherlands right now. They are in Amsterdam. I would love to see them.” That is completely 100% true.We often deal with a lack of commitment, and through lack of commitment, you get to lack stability. Click To Tweet
I say, “Yes, but we have so much to do. There are chores to be done, the house to be cleaned. A lot, you name it.” I’m right too. Both of us are completely right at the same time. We could be struggling. If my husband would say to me, “Yeah but you’re overreacting and too stressed. Everything will be working out fine.” Do you think we would have an open conversation about what we both need? No, probably not because I will be getting to defense mode and say, “Yes, but you never are stressed about when we’re traveling and I have to do it all by myself, so and so.”
I could say to my husband, “I don’t want them to come,” but will that make either one of us happy? Probably not. If we accept that both of us outside and both of our needs are equally important, then we can come to a conversation. For my husband, it’s important to see his friends. For me, it is important that all organizational stuff is done by Thursday evening. What tasks can my husband take away from me to help me with the stress that I’m feeling and how can we make sure that this evening, together with our friends, is not intervening with packing? Maybe we can take an extra hour tomorrow morning to get us stuff. Do you see what I’m going there? We are both right. It saves so much time and energy if we don’t have to discuss about who’s right. We can move on to where we can find our way forward.
I totally am on board with that. When I read that again, to me, this is the world that we live in in terms of trying to create this. It was so simple when you look at it that way. That’s foundational in terms of how do I listen. If I take the premise first of we’re both right here, it does allow me to put my stuff aside because, let’s face it. If I think that I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m not listening to you. I could be doing the, “Rosalie, you got to calm down. This is not a big deal.” What do you do? Does that make you calm down? No, because you’re not listening to the other person in terms of what their needs are and what’s going on. I see this all the time as I’m sure you do within organizations. If somebody says, “They bring up that issue all the time. Every time we get into a conversation, they bring that up.” My thought and recommendation often is I bet they continue to bring it up because they have felt so far that nobody has ever listened to their frustration on this.
I’m sure that you agree that having a mindset of being curious about the other person, “Why are you upset by this? Why do you feel stressed?” In a situation in a company, “Why do you feel that this is an important way forward?” Being curious about that is such a helpful way of being and a way of listening.
I don’t think you can get to real conflict resolution or productive conflict if you don’t do that. As I would see it, I might get my way but if you haven’t felt like you had to acquiesce to me or given to me, then there’s going to be a sense of resentment because you never felt like I appreciated where you were coming from. The next time there is an issue that comes up, it may get even more difficult for us to come to a resolution because you’re still feeling those things of, “I wasn’t listened to last time. I got pushed into an agreement that I didn’t want to make.”
You often deal with a lack of commitment. Through lack of commitment, you get to lack of accountability. It’s hard to get results. Many people in the organizations are very focused on being efficient and creating effectiveness and getting to the results of the organization. If you don’t take the time to communicate in an effective way then you will never get there. If people are not committed and they lack accountability, how will you ever get the results?
We never even talked about, but you obviously are probably referencing some of Pat Lencioni’s work in regards to The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. That second dysfunction is around conflict. We need conflict and this is about how do you have it in a way that’s productive. If we don’t have that level of trust, which is around to me, the listening and feeling as though I’ve been heard, we never get there. It is one of the most elegant models in terms of describing what we see in most organizations that you and I probably deal with. That’s not a dysfunction of a team. It’s the five dysfunctions of relationships, whether it’s at home. Those same five dysfunctions play themselves out at home, too.
You create your own model in this.
I did. It’s the PAUSE approach. It’s super simple because it’s an acronym. The letter stands for words and I can explain them. If you forget all the words and you remember to pull in your conversation to pause and maybe the second step will be to be present, that might be enough even to start a difficult conversation or through to get through a difficult conversation. PAUSE is an acronym. It stands for five concepts that if you walk through these five steps, I can guarantee you, you will have a completely different conversation than if you don’t do that.
The first one is about Presence. Presence in my group is related to both being present, being in the moment, not listening to your monkey mind and being with the other person. It’s also about your energy, what you bring into a conversation. That would be related to your intention that you come in, that you take with you into the conversation. An effective intention would be to want to push your opinion through, understand the other person and find a way forward that works for the both of you. Your intention is basically reflected in your energy in a way that you are being in that conversation.
The second step is Acceptance. It’s the mindfulness tenets, accepting the way that things are right now. Instead of thinking, they should be different or why are we fighting about this again or trying to prove that you are right, as we talked about the uncertainty, all of these things are not going to help you move through your difficult conversations. Acceptance would allow you to take a breath and think into the fact that you’re having this conversation right now. That it’s not going to help you to try to avoid it or to shorten it for all the reasons that we talked about. To be in it and accept that you have this conversation and that there is a way forward at the end of the conversation that will probably lead you to a new future that is better.
The U is for Undercurrent. We talked about the iceberg system. I am an iceberg. You were an iceberg. In the undercurrent, underwater is where our iceberg meets. The undercurrent is an important concept in mindful conflict resolution because that level when you sense things in a conversation. You feel that something else is up or someone is distracted by something. This is where you step into your intuitive knowing or your understanding, and you make that part of the actual conversation.
When you allow yourself to tap into that undercurrent and take the information that you pick up there, you make it part of the normal conversation, now you can get to the S that stands for synchronicity. In respect to mindful conflict resolution means that unexpected solutions can come up, unexpected ways forward, and win-win solutions. They come up because you’re so open-minded, in the present moment, aware of everything that is going on with you and with the other person, you are connected to each other and yourself, and then unexpected ideas surface.The more conscious that we become, the less unexpected influences we have. Click To Tweet
That is something that we so often lack to acknowledge. We see in mindful conflict resolution, that is where we find the gems to move forward. The E is for Exchange. The exchange is basically everything related to our actual speaking but also listening, especially our speaking. It’s the things that we say connectedness that we find in a way that we speak to the other person. The way that we bring into the conversation everything that we’ve picked up by being so present and acknowledging what is going on in the undercurrent.
I’m obviously a fan of acronyms. I use a number of them myself. This one to me, I love it as well because the word itself helps us to remember if we were to do that, to take the minute to pause.
It’s that simple, basically.
With that said, though, what do you do for somebody that might be reading and said, “Mindfulness seems like a lot of work or it seems hard to do this.” What would you recommend as a first step or somebody to be able to start applying what we’re talking about here?
I totally understand that question because it does seem like a lot of work. It isn’t, especially not if you start small. For example, take that PAUSE approach. What if you would take them one step at a time and you’d start in your next conversation. It doesn’t even have to be a difficult one. You practice with being present. Every time you notice your mind wandering, you pull yourself back. You’ve done that maybe once, twice, and you find yourself being more and more present in the conversation, being able to open up to the other person, then you can start practicing acceptance. Instead of trying to change anything about the fact that you’re having a difficult conversation, you lean into it and embrace it. From there, you work through all the five levels of PAUSE and take baby steps. In the book, I offer a lot of examples of what could happen. In many of those, the first step is starting and being aware of the fact that it can be different for you in a conflict. It doesn’t have to be so complicated and hard. You don’t have to struggle that much. Awareness is basically the first step.
We haven’t even talked about that. The layout of this book does such a great job of that from the way it recaps at the end of each of the chapters, but also giving real examples of what does this look like because I do think that helps individuals that read it to get an idea of how do I apply this? I do think that certainly does a great job of that.
Thank you so much.
With that said, I was able to go on Amazon. I saw that it is ready for pre-order on November 5th, 2020. I believe so The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution.
Maybe it’s nice when people order it right now. It’s a good idea. I would recommend it because you get all the meditation from the book as an audio file and also as a pre-order gif. I offer people a three-month membership to what I call PAUSE, an online coaching program that I’m introducing, arriving at the same time as the book. If people order it already on Amazon, make sure that you go to my website as well to sign up for those pre-order gifts.
What a great grouping of gifts to give somebody as they read through this. It has been such a great book to read through and I feel so honored to have it before it hit the streets, so to speak, to be able to get to it. To me, in regards to the work that I do and certainly for so many individuals out there, I think this provides such a powerful way to move through conflict in a way that’s very productive. I want to thank you for your time, Rosalie.
It’s such a pleasure to be with you, Patrick.
I hope you enjoyed this episode with Rosalie speaking about her new book, The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution. There were so many pearls, recommendations that I think are very easy for us to start applying that she mentioned in small pieces. She mentioned her model PAUSE and a couple of other things that stuck out to me. One is the simplicity of imagining coming to any disagreement that we might have with the belief that both of us could be right about what that does for us in regards to how we might listen better when that happens. If you know somebody that you think might find this valuable, I would ask that you forward it to them. If you haven’t already subscribed, please go ahead and subscribe to this. If you find this or any other episode that has been recorded valuable, I would ask you to go on and leave a rating or a comment because that’s how this message continues to get out there. Until our next episode, I hope you were able to rise above your best.
- The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution
- Rosalie Puiman
- The Power Of Vulnerability
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution
About Rosalie Puiman
Before starting her coaching practice in 2013, Rosalie Puiman worked as an interim manager in the Dutch government for almost a decade. In her many assignments in various ministries and municipalities, she worked alongside people with great leadership scope and huge influence.
This taught her invaluable lessons about courageous communication, integrity, and leadership. It also showed her that a staggering amount of very influential leaders don’t really have the skills or the courage to be authentic in their leadership and to speak and live their truth without alienating others. It became Rosalie’s mission to change that.
Rosalie has a deep inner drive to support people in stepping into their full potential and creating a life of purpose. She loves to work with passionate people who feel driven to positively impact the world. Her coaching helps them connect to their intuitive mind and grow into their personal power and true potential.
Rosalie holds an MA from Amsterdam University. She’s the founder of The Sovereign Leader, a certified Transformational Presence Coach and ThetaHealer. She’s also the author of The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution.