Recently I had what I call a breakthrough.
I had a situation in my life that had escalated into gross proportions. Call it a tempest in a teapot, but what had started out as a simple statement of personal rights had become a full-on war. Tension was palpable, and I began to experience anxiety. I couldn’t quiet my mind down to meditate as my mind kept on spiraling down the same silly scenarios of confrontation, right vs wrong, and defensiveness.
I knew I had to do something, and it had to be radically different from what I had been doing; in fact I had to do the exact opposite of what I had been doing.
In my book, Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity, I call this technique, “thinking upside-down.” It involves three simple steps:
- Objectively examine the current situation that isn’t working.
- Determine the linchpin that supports the structure of the situation.
- Turn that element upside-down–do the exact opposite.
So, in my situation, I knew I had to turn confrontation, defense, and anger into harmony and understanding. It’s important to realize one’s own part in creating a bad situation; to realize that the problem isn’t outside you, but actually stems from you. I knew I was right, but I had to find a way to relax my tension and defensiveness to be able to express myself in another way. What did I say?
I apologize; I did not intend to injure you.
It takes power to apologize. However, it is extremely important to leave out the “buts” — such as “I apologize for hurting you, but….” The effect of the “but” is that it totally negates whatever went before; the listener knows that you need to be right, and that your apology is insincere.
To get to the place where you don’t include a “but” you have to understand that harmony between people works on a simple dynamic of appreciation. Appreciation is a much more powerful word than love, because it is so simple to learn to appreciate. Love is a much bigger word, and one that makes most of us uncomfortable, since the word and concept have been so badly misused. Plus the action of appreciating builds more appreciation.
And while my turnaround this morning was very successful with the person I had had a confrontation with, I found an entirely unexpected dividend: suddenly, I no longer felt annoyed at the little things that had–even earlier that morning–irritated me, but I felt happy and relaxed for the first time in weeks. Quite a little dividend for accepting responsiblity and having the courage to say those two little words: