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If you are involved in an argument the best thing to do is retreat. Ignore the chorus in your mind and get out of there.

The chorus is made up of ringside voices that are only there for entertainment. They naturally want the show to go on, so they chant things like “You must win”; “Don’t back down!”; “If you run away they’ll have won!”. There is a more indulgent counterpoint: “I just want to be understood”; “If they see how upset I am they’ll understand me”;  and “Why can’t they see my point, I know I’m right?”.

The thing is, the other person is listening to their chorus, that has pretty much the same themes. There is no opportunity for the thought or unity that are necessary for settling differences. That’s why retreat is a sensible option. It’s also a courageous and honourable one, whatever others, or the chorus, might say.

Here’s why

You can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that created it. In the case of conflict, you have to transcend – quite literally rise above – the stuff of argument and dispute. Two people cannot come together and collaborate on a solution or agreement while both minds are clouded by feelings of fear, isolation and defensiveness (and the rest).

Step back, step out or step away, or you’ll step up and heat, the animosity and the pain. It’s fruitless. Explain that you are not “walking away from the problem, but from the way we are discussing it.” Take an agreed time out, allow a truce to settle in, and create an alliance that is safe and strong enough to discuss the ‘problem’. Agree that you’ll both call a halt if emotions and voices start to rise.

Expect some discomfort, but if the chorus starts up, then it’s time for an interlude.

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