How Firmly Rooted Are Your Feet? (Rule #8)

yogaIf you have trouble with resolving conflict, this is the rule for you.

One of the things that I love about practicing yoga is what the focus is–practice.

I find balancing poses–tree pose, dancer’s pose, Warrior III–to be very challenging. When I first started yoga, I thought the focus was supposed to be on doing the position perfectly, and it started with the feet. I learned–after many unattractive, acrobatic flourishes–that it has nothing to do with the position, and everything to do with core.

Rule #8, focus on interests, not positions. In yoga, the focus is on the core, those all-important muscles that keep everything else in alignment, not the position. I’ve found this to be true in groups, relationships, and pretty much every other aspect of work and life.

When we focus on the position, we become adversarial. In tree pose, I used to get mad at my arms because they were fighting what my legs and the rest of me wanted to do. In relationships, we get rooted to a spot, and often there is no bridge to a place where we can join minds, hearts, and heads.

When we focus on interests, the starting point is very different. I read many years ago that the best negotiators started conversations with the simplest of decisions–where and when to meet, how many people would be invited, what language would be used. The best of the best knew that each of these little decisions created a base upon which more challenging interests could be addressed, and ultimately the questions that were at the core of the positions the parties held could be answered.

I think about really big international conflicts that have been addressed in my lifetime–the peace settlement in the Mid-East (not permanent, but it was a step), detente and ultimately the breaking down of the walls between East and West, the opening of dialogue with China. Each of these negotiations started with questions like, “Where do we meet? Who should we invite? What are the rules for dialogue?” And which smaller partners were these negotiations tested with, practiced on?

When faced with conflict, how tightly do you hold onto your position? Think of the most recent experience you had, at the heart of it, what were you interested in accomplishing? What was the other person interested in accomplishing? Where did your interests potentially overlap? And how could you go from there?

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