Sara Waters, MA, LPC - Speaker & Psychotherapist

4-Step Magic Trick to Try During Your Next Fight

In this post, I’m going to give you 4 steps of a magic trick that will change the way you do conflict.  Its good to shake things up every once in a while, right?  Worth a try…

What kind of a fighter are you?  When you are in a disagreement with someone, what comes up for you?  Does it depend on who the conflict is with, or is it pretty much the same across the board?  Adversity with another person draws pretty specific characters up in me… I have a Defensive part who swiftly picks up her sword and Captain America shield when she feel like I’m being challenged.  I have a Shut Down part who is equipped with one-word answers and who puts distance between myself and whomever the conflict is with, meanwhile drowning my emotions away in a hot bubble bath, loud music in my headphones and a glass of wine.  I have a Distractor part that focuses my attention on as many busy tasks and other responsibilities as it can… anything to avoid having to actually deal with the conflict.  These are just a few of the characters in the large army of protectors within me.  At the end of this blog, I encourage you to sit for a few minutes and write down the characters in the familiar motley crew within yourself, especially those who tend to surface during conflict.

I promised you a magic trick.  Its coming, hang tight.  But first, consider this…

To regularly question what I know to see if it wants to dissolve or evolve into something more comprehensive, specific, or totally different.”  My Defensive, Shut Down and Distractor parts hate this quote.  They don’t like Penney Peirce for writing it, not one bit.  When she used this description to give meaning to the “art of inquiry” (aka curiosity), these parts within me shake their heads in disgust, roll their eyes and say she’s ignorant and doesn’t understand the world we live in.  Read that quote one more time.  “Question what I know”???  Why would we do that?  With the wonderment of whether or not it will “dissolve” or “evolve” into something else?  No thank you, I prefer to believe that what I know is right!  Why would I purposefully try to shoot holes through that?

Two answers to consider… vulnerability and connection.

I will talk more about both vulnerability and connection in later blogs.  For now, just go inward and notice what you feel when you sit with each of those words.  (Do you currently equate vulnerability with weakness?  Does connection stir up memories of pain, grief, or loss?).  Just something to chew on for future exploration.

I recognize I’m jumping around a bit.  Stay with me.  Here’s the part about the magic.  Imagine you are in the heat of a disagreement with someone you care about.  Notice the rise in the temperature of your blood because they just won’t listen!  He or she totally sucks in this moment!… and they are sucking just to piss you off.  So stubborn.  So frustrating.  There’s no point.  Nothing is ever going to change.  UGGGHHHHHH!

< I hope your Cortisol levels just rose a little. >

Right now, right here is the perfect moment to try your magic trick.  Here’s whatcha do…

Step 1: Take a long slow inhale, see how much air you can fill into your lungs.  Then exhale just as slowly and deflate those lungs completely.  (Repeat this step until you feel a little more calm and ready for Step 2).

Step 2: Notice your motley crew, give them an internal nod so they know you have their back, then see if they are willing to take-5 so that you can try your hand at this magic thing.  (If not, no problem, let them do their thing and continue in the conflict as you normally would… we’ll try again another time.)

Step 3: If your army has stepped aside (invite them to sit on the sidelines and watch), look your adversary right in the eye, tap into as much authenticity as you can muster up and (here’s the magic!!!) ask him/her to help you understand what they are thinking and feeling.  Ask, with all sincerity, if he/she can help put you in his/her shoes so that you can try to understand his/her perspective better.

<Step 3a: If your adversary passes out, assess whether he/she needs medical attention or if a cold glass of water in the face will suffice.>

Step 4: Open your ears and listen… not with the intention of telling why and how they are wrong as soon as they stop taking, and not with judgement about what they are saying… but with an authentically open heart and the humble willingness to challenge what you think you already know just in case your perspective wants to dissolve or shift into something different.

This is easier said (and typed) than done.  I know, I’ve failed at it many times because my army of protectors sometimes jumps off the sidelines, storms the field and hijacks my magic trick.  But when they are willing to stand at bay, and when I am able to CURIOSIFY my approach to the conflict, it works like a charm every time.  My adversary often shifts into a more cooperative position (although he/she may not yet be willing to access their own magic).  And magic definitely occurs within me… my heart softens, my compassion increases, and stronger chords of connection are formed between me and my adversary (aka, my husband, children, friend, coworker, family member).  This feels so much better!!!

This is all going to make a little more sense once you’ve put the magic trick to the test in real life.  Its one of those have to experience it kinds of things (kind of like contractions during labor and delivery… nobody can explain or describe those suckers ahead of time, you just have to dive in and experience them to understand).  So I encourage you to give it a try.  If your army refuses to step aside, that’s okay.  They must have good reason to be so protective over you.  We’ll explore that in future posts.  In the meantime, good luck practicing your magic.  I would love to hear your stories of how it goes!


By Sara Waters, MA, LPCC