Book review

The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution by Rosalie Puiman

Now and again, you pick out a book that is so relevant for your life at that moment. In my case, Rosalie Puiman’s Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution is the 2020 version.  The editors write that the book “provides you with the tools to handle difficult conversations, remain civil, and end an argument peacefully.” Here are a few perspectives that came from the book.

First, being mindful in dealing or managing conflict allows you to set a positive intent for the conversation. It also helps you to re-define success as you develop a deeper awareness of your needs and your expectations of how you want the need to be met. Similarly, it allows you to be open (non-judgmental and accepting) for the needs and expectations of the other party. Together, this awareness (or clarity) and acceptance allow you different ways of being present in that tense situation we dread.

Second, the concept of interconnectedness (p 37) is a potent reminder that our resolutions for difficult situations do not come from a place of selfishness. It comes from a place of equal-ness deserving to be not judged, being accepted. I am allowed to be compassionate towards both myself and the other person. This again points to what I called awareness and acceptance.

Understanding what Puiman calls the undercurrents of our experience, or the subconscious is vital in dealing with our awkwardness under challenging situations and relationships. We can learn to bring these undercurrents to our awareness and begin to work consciously with our hidden motivations and commitments, opening the way to a stance of non-judgement and acceptance.

Puiman highlights four critical skills. These are being prepared and present, listening, speaking. Being present maybe is the most essential ingredient to create new ways of dealing with difficult situations and relationships. Being present reminds me of some old-world values, such as being on-time and counting to ten before you respond. The point is simply; do not try and resolve conflict if you cannot sit down and have a constructive conversation, compassionate listening and thoughtful speaking.  Without being present, we silence the inner voice.

Self-awareness and acceptance help us not to revisit old pain and not to react from fear. We can hold ourselves accountable and take responsibility for the conversation. Puiman introduces the concept of PAUSE to highlight five critical aspects of being present in a conflict situation. PAUSE stands for Presence, Acceptance, Undercurrent, Synchronicity, Exchange. (Now you have to buy the book).

My take-away from The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution is this: It is more important to spend time on preparing yourself than developing arguments. Get your facts straight, it will help, but it will only help if you are thoughtfully present and respond to the other persons from the point of responsibility and accountability. Then, as Eduard de Bono wrote, you can partner with the other person to design new ways forward out of the discomfort towards a new appreciation for one another.

Somewhere in the book, Puiman wrote this simple but profound sentence, “if one person change, the situation change.” If you change the whole dynamics in the relationship can change – probably for better. Preparing yourself, rather than merely preparing arguments brings that changed person to the conversation.