How to Stand up for Yourself in Conflict

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Doctor Neha: Welcome to Talk Rx with Doctor Neha. This week, I have a special guest, Lance. He’s an executive wellness coach, is that right?

Lance: That’s correct.

Doctor Neha: He’s willing to come on camera and ask his questions so that all of you can learn. I just met him yesterday and told him I was filming and he said, “I’d love to join in.”

Doctor Neha: Welcome, Lance. What have you been thinking about?

Lance: When you said today was going to be about communication, I knew that I had to be here because it’s been a theme that has been running through my life. I’ve been reflecting on and working on communication, so I’m excited to get your expertise and make some recommendations on how I can integrate what I want to into my life.

Doctor Neha: Love it. Let’s hear it.

Lance: I had a bullying theme throughout my life, and I wasn’t able to stand up to those bullies. Someone else always stood up for me. I saw it in school situations, then it transferred into relationships and even into professional realms where I had bosses who were in that bullying type of a role. I would get tight and locked up in my throat and the ability to communicate. I’ve been working on that over the last number of years. That was even my major area of illness; medical conditions have only been around the throat. For today, I have a number of questions but I would love to get your take on how can one continue to work on communication in my personal and professional life?

Doctor Neha: First of all, you have such a well-constructed question. How I know you’re a coach is you lay out all the patterns you can see. This issue isn’t just one incident; it’s been showing up with different names and different situations in all these arenas of your life.

Lance: Right.

Doctor Neha: Thank you for pointing that out. For all of you at home, what Lance is experiencing and speaking about is something you want to think about: How have the things that I think are bothering me actually shown up as patterns in my life, at home and work? The other thing you did that was amazing is you correlated being bullied or the inability to speak up for yourself with your physical ailments. Tell me how did this show up, thyroid, all things throat?

Lance: I had only two major illnesses in my life, and both have been extreme swelling of one of my glands. I had an infection that put me into the ICU. I had to change my whole life, which got me on my path to wellness but illness is never just physical.

Doctor Neha: No.

Lance: I started connecting the dots and seeing how can I continue to grow in this area if it’s a constant theme because I don’t wish to go to the ICU again.

Doctor Neha: You got your wake up call. What’s really interesting is you said you had an infection. In this area of your neck and body is your immune system or the body’s defense against disease. A majority of our immune system, 60% (called Peyer’s patches), is in the third part of our small intestine (jejunum)and most of the rest of it is in your neck and salivary glands. What’s interesting is that you were having an inflammation or swelling in the area of your body that helps you defend yourself.

Lance: Oh, wow.

Doctor Neha: Now, you’ve told me that through your life, you were unable to defend yourself, and when you got out of those situation with the bullies, it was because someone else defended you.

Lance: Yes.

Doctor Neha: When you end up in the ICU, [the medical staff] are the ones defending you. As a doctor, I would show up there to do everything I needed to—medications, IVs, putting a tube down your throat—to make sure that you could breathe. I would defend you.

You have incredible awareness. One thing I can tell from your physique and your posture is that you are strong. You are physically strong in your core and how you hold yourself. How beautiful is that!

Lance: Thank you.

Doctor Neha: It’s usually these types of experiences, as you know, that turn us into the person we become.

Lance: Absolutely.

Doctor Neha: You have this physical strength now. You have this emotional and mental awareness and pattern recognition. The first thing I want to ask is how has it served you to be bullied? Tell me.

Lance: In my training, we call it the pain teacher. If you don’t listen to the pain teacher, it gets louder and louder and louder until you end up in the ICU and that’s very uncomfortable. [Being bullied] created awareness and helped me become the person I am today. I’ve taken this weakness or theme and actually shifted into a strength and one of my major passions and abilities as a public speaker. I do speak around the country and it’s interesting that I’m using…

Doctor Neha: Your voice.

Lance: That hindered me in the past. But when things get difficult in interpersonal relationships, I can feel a little bit of the vise grip. Working on ourselves is the best project in our life. [Being bullied] served me because it helped me understand more about myself.

Doctor Neha: I love not only that you asked at the beginning about how to keep doing this, but that you’ve also taken your pain point or your wound and overcome it through doing the work to learn yourself and strengthen yourself on all these levels. That becomes your life’s work. I love the fact that you are an executive wellness coach, and I would say expand it to be an executive wellness and communication coach.

Tell me, though, what happens when there’s a challenge with somebody in your personal life. What are you most afraid of?

Lance: Conflict.

Doctor Neha: Okay.

Lance: Conflict in the past has not worked well for me. I can feel stress responses starting to occur.

Doctor Neha: How does that show up in your body?

Lance: My heart rate increases for sure. Maybe some tension and tightness throughout the body like I’m getting ready to spring into action.

Doctor Neha: Fight or flight.

Lance: Totally. That doesn’t serve me anymore. I want to be able to have conversations in a structured way even if they’re difficult or even if we’re having conflict because I always think of what I really want to say later. I never think of it at that moment. I probably should call a time-out if I feel like things are getting heated. It doesn’t happen very often so I think that’s why it throws me off. I would love to get your insight on how I can stay cool and calm and communicate in a way that I share what I want to rather than thinking about it 20 minutes later when I’m no longer with that person.

Doctor Neha: This is the art of communication. I’ve spent the last 15 years focusing on communication in myself because I had a pretty similar experience to yours. In fact, I wrote a book called Talk Rx. I opened the book with a story about being bullied and that sent me on this journey. I’m now really grateful for that because it’s really like it became a calling.

First, I had to become aware of physical sensations in my body. Mine ws throat constriction; I have thyroid issues and throat constriction. I even got scoped twice because I was certain there was a mass in my throat. But it was my own constriction, that vise thing that you were speaking about.

Once you identify what’s going on in your body then you move to your thoughts. Then you identify your emotions and what triggered you to react. Next, what you actually want plays into your emotions and thoughts and determines finally what you end up doing, the action you take.

I know this sounds like a plug for my book but it will really serve you to give you the five steps to having honest conversations that create connection, health and happiness. I will commit to you that I would love to answer your questions as you go through it.

Lance: That sounds awesome.

Doctor Neha: Any takeaways you had?

Lance: The takeaways are to slow down the conversations to become aware. You don’t have to say something immediately.

Doctor Neha: No, you can say this, “I’m feeling tense across my shoulders and my heart’s racing. This is important to me. Can you give me some time? I will reconnect with you after dinner.” You always want to make sure you let someone know when you will reconnect on this topic of conversation. “I’ll reconnect with you after the weekend or Monday morning or whatever it is.” Just don’t abandon someone and act like you’re escaping. Name what’s physically happening

Lance: Name it, tame it.

Doctor Neha: Name it, tame it. So another way to say it would be, “I heard you saying I won’t be part of the group. I notice myself reacting. I’m wondering if you can just give me some time. I need to go for a run and then I’d love to reconnect with you on that.” Or you might say, “If I answer right now, I know I’m not going to show up in a way that I’d like to in our relationship. I’d like some time, and I will revisit this with you tomorrow. All right?”

Lance: I love that.

Doctor Neha: You just have to hit pause.

Lance: You totally can but no one does.

Doctor Neha: Who knew?

Lance: Both people will be better served for that time-out because the other person will probably be reflecting as well. You will pause.

Doctor Neha: They might get uncomfortable though. They might say, “No, no, no. I want to talk about it now.” All you say then is, “I hear how important this is to you. It’s important to me too, and I want us to connect. Right now, I’m not in the place to be able to do that in a way that would serve us.”

Lance: Awesome. I love it. Thank you very much.

Doctor Neha: You’re welcome, Lance. For any of you watching or reading who have experienced being bullied in any way, felt like you didn’t have a voice to speak up in a situation that mattered to you, or just want to know how to better lean into conflict, pick up a copy of Talk Rx for the steps to clear, honest communication. Leave your comments on the Talk Rx Facebook page or below on this blog so I can answer your questions and help you out. Or you can drop me a tweet at #AskDoctorNeha.

Awareness Prescription

  1. Know your physical triggers.
  2. When you feel yourself reacting, pause and repeat back what you think you heard, saw or observed.
  3. Take three deep breaths as you state what’s happening for you physically (e.g., tense muscles, heart racing, sweating, stomach turning, etc.).
  4. Ask for however much time you need (e.g., 15 minutes or the weekend).
  5. Tell the other person when you will reconnect to follow up on the conversation.

To taking back control,

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