Never too old to learn new tools

The conversation seemed familiar. I felt angry defensiveness rise in me as my husband. Steve, and I drove in the car together. Our conversation had begun to escalate into an argument.

As I noticed that the conversation had started down a no-win path, I recalled a communication tool taught by my coach and mentor, Dr. Carol McCall. She calls it "99/1." It states that, if someone in my presence is upset, 99 percent of the responsibility for the upset lies with that person. One percent is mine just for being there. Conversely, if I'm upset, 99 percent of the responsibility for the upset is mine, and one percent lies with the other person. He or she becomes the handy coat rack upon which to hang my upset.

In a heated conversation, withdrawing blame from your conversation partner and taking responsibility for your own "stuff" can seem impossible. Yet, with practice and persistence, you can turn conversations 180 degrees to the positive.

In the car, I decided to use the 99/1 tool. So I became quiet and allowed myself to feel the discomfort of my defensiveness and anger. I also allowed the sting of knowing that I had caused my reaction -- not Steve.

Taking that time put space between me and my emotions. Then I become clear enough to see where I had made a mistake. I said to Steve, "OK, I see. A part of me wants to be right and to make you wrong. That's what's going on with me in this conversation."

Putting that part of me "on audio" distanced me from the need to act on my desire to make Steve wrong. It also melted his defenses. We resolved the dialogue in a few more sentences without getting into a long, drawn out, destructive conversation.

Was it easy? No. I can't tell you how much my ego resisted accepting responsibility for my reaction. Choosing to do so, however, resulted in handling the upset in minutes instead of hours or days. It left Steve and me with our relationship intact, and we had a great trip!

Practice putting space between you and your reaction. Breathe deeply. Feel all your feelings. Allow your reaction to be there inside you without judging it. You can even say, "I'm having a reaction, and I'd like to take a five minute break to get a handle on it."

After you have done this, you will have calmed down. Then tell on that part of yourself that wanted to blame and shame and create drama.

When I allowed myself to do that, an unexpected peace came over me. I think it was because I had been completely and nakedly honest.

You can, too. So begin practicing the 99/1 tool with the next challenging conversation you have. Let me know if you want support!

There is one day left to enroll in Dr. Carol McCall's Possibility of Woman workshop in Sedona, May 15-17, facilitated by Dr. McCall. Call Dr. Marta at (928) 451-9482 today for information and to enroll.

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