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Courage as a Choice: Building Your Courage Muscle

Cowardly-Lion-1In the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, I remember the scene with the Cowardly Lion who says,

Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the “ape” in apricot? What have they got that I ain’t got?

Courage!

So what does it really mean to have courage especially in times of disagreement? Courage is the ability to stay strong and address what you find difficult, scary and challenging. Courage is a choice. Being courageous and fearless takes practice; it takes being vulnerable; it means making hard decisions and it requires action. Like any skill or behavior, it takes concerted effort to build.

For many people, including myself, encountering disagreements and facing escalating interpersonal conflict is scary. Interpersonal conflicts challenge our beliefs, values systems and our self-image. The closer we are to someone in a relationship whether it be our teenager, coworker, spouse, sibling, best friend, boss or neighbor, we are presented with opportunities to practice being vulnerable and courageous. So what steps can you take to build your courage muscle?

  • Name your fear or anxiety. Simply speak out loud to yourself and name the fear. For example,” I am afraid she will not talk to me anymore if I raise the issue.” Naming “it” lessens the emotional impact.
  • Take a deep breath. Breathing slows your brain’s defensive reaction and helps you focus. When building muscle, you isolate the exercise to a specific muscle group which in turn strengthens the ability to use the muscle in a different way. Breathing helps manage anxiety.
  • Set your intention. What is a new courageous goal you will set for yourself when facing interpersonal conflict? For example, “My goal is to communicate my needs in a respectful manner regardless of whether the other person disagrees.”
  • Acknowledge every tiny step you take. It is important to build self-confidence by acknowledging every small risk, step or effort in building courage as you work toward your goal.
  • Speak your truth. This is not about debating who is right or wrong. It is about speaking from your heart and being vulnerable with the other person to share your deeper thoughts and emotions. It is about being authentic and genuine to who you are in the face of conflict.
  • Listen to the other person’s truth. Building our courage muscle also means receiving feedback and listening deeply to the other person’s truth and be willing to be present with them.

These are just a few strategies to practice courage and build your courage muscle.

Pattie Porter. LCSW

 

Listen and learn more with Eric Galton and Unbearable Conflict Requires Courageous Conversations

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Facing Ourselves in Times of Conflict- The Power of Self-Reflection

brainsI am an inquisitive person. I think it is important to ask why, because I believe knowing and understanding why things and people act and behave the way they do furthers learning of the world around you. When you ask the question why, it allows you to hear the facts, draw your conclusions and apply the synthesized information into other areas of your life.

Merriam-Webster defines self-reflection as “careful thought about your own behavior and beliefs”. Self-Reflection is taking a step back from yourself and looking inward. I had been a self-reflector even before I knew there was a term for what I was doing. I have always been curious as to why I behaved or thought a certain way. I believe many people struggle with self-reflection because it is scary to admit our shortcomings. Recognizing our flaws, makes them real for us and many of us shy away from self-reflection. I am not one to shy away. I think self-reflection is essential in my life to keep myself in check.

2012 was not my best. I gained thirty pounds; I was in a different graduate school program that I did not want to be in, and my self-esteem was low. I was unhappy and negative. I had internal conflict which impacted my attitude, reactions and behaviors with others. I started asking why I felt this way through journaling. It was the most therapeutic part of my transformation process. Journaling allowed me to express and put on paper what I was thinking and feeling. I analyzed why I pursued my Masters in the first place? Why I had gained thirty pounds? Why I felt envious of my friends? As a result of journaling and self-reflection, I was able to work through these internal conflicts and I concluded it was time for a change.

I applied and enrolled into a different graduate program, started working out and eating better, and slowly my life began to change. I know journaling is not for everyone, but it allowed me to look inward and analyze myself and my behavior. I wrote when I was angry, when I was happy, when I was sad, and I began to take inventory of how I responded in those situations; and then I started to brainstorm how I could do better.

Self-Reflection Strategies:

Think about these questions as it pertains to the internal conflict you are experiencing.

#1 – Be honest.

  • What are you not speaking aloud that you know to be the truth of the situation you find yourself experiencing?
  • What is it you are embellishing in your story to others?

#2 – Be vulnerable.

  • What emotions are you experiencing right now?
  • What is causing you to feel that emotion?
    • For example: When you fought with your spouse over not taking the trash out, were you angry about that or were you taking your frustration from work out on him?

#3 – Be tough.

  • How did I contribute to this dispute?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What will I work on to prepare for next situation I encounter?

I am my harshest critic and asking myself these questions allows me to take responsibility, look at myself from another perspective, critique my behavior, and generate solutions to do better next time.

I believe self-reflection is necessary for anyone looking to address his or her internal conflict. I often say that no one can ever tell me something about myself that I haven’t already thought. My goal in life is to be the best version of myself and self-reflection is crucial to achieve success. I challenge anyone with this common purpose to do the same and find the power of self-reflection.

Abigail Clark- M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

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