In every relationship conflict will arise. No one has any intention of fighting, yelling or speaking loudly. These things happen due to both party’s actions and reactions. No one is right and no one is wrong. We each just have a need to be heard and understood.
In every relationship we must understand that we are dealing with someone like our self. We all carry the same emotions but just express them in different degrees. Reactive behaviours or triggers are deep rooted feelings that arise during a relationship conflict. These feelings are rooted in our past experiences. They are your personal childhood programming.
How do you recognize that your feelings have been tainted by your past childhood experiences?
First you must understand that active anger is sadness and sadness is inactive anger . Anger is sadness gone toxic. When you feel anger and you are losing control, it is a direct indication that the current situation is triggering a past experience from your childhood that made you very sad/upset/terrified/etc. It is an experience that you have subconsciously suppressed. Present moment situations never cause conflict and suffering. Only situations that are subconsciously linked to our childhood experiences can create such drama and heightened conflict.
Not Nice is a technique designed for any relationship. It could be between siblings, parent and child, friends and couples. In other words this technique is not restricted to couples only. It can also be practiced as a family.
Not Nice Overview
This technique requires 200% self-honesty and complete agreement between both parties to practice.
There must be a commitment from both parties to recognize that conflict exists not because of one person, but because of both parties. There must also be a sincere intention to improve communication between each other. When practicing as a family all family members must be committed.
No one should be forced to do Not Nice but instead each person should have a core willingness.
When either party feels a situation is escalating into conflict, they can invoke Not Nice. This escalation is indicative of rising voices, snarly and spiteful remarks, deep hurt feelings, stubbornness, or generally any emotional disturbance that feels greater than the situation warrants.
Not Nice has five guidelines:
Guideline 1: You must speak in the first person --“I”-- where indicated in the instructions. You must not use any words of blame such as you, they, them, someone’s name, etc.
Examples of what you cannot say:
Speaking in the “I” is strictly to identify your feelings in the moment. Not yesterday, last month or last year. But in the moment. As an example some may say “she makes me sad” instead of the reality which is “I make me sad.” How do we know you are making yourself sad? You have identified you are sad, which means it is the energy in your body that is stirred. If the energy is within your body then it is yours to own. As long as you feel it, you own it.
Owning how you feel cultivates self-confidence, compassion and clarity of mind. It is not as most people may think; making yourself small, weak or a doormat. Instead, it is a deep form of self-honesty which touches a place within your soul that is essential for spiritual expansion. Spiritual expansion cultivates understanding of self and others.
Guideline 2: You cannot use the word angry or say “I am angry.” Anger is an umbrella we use to hide our sadness and scare people away from us. So in reality, the above statement “I am angry” is actually “I am sad.”
Likewise you cannot use the word “afraid” without defining your fear. If you use a sentence like “I am afraid,” then you must follow up with – “I am afraid I will/of…” – Example: “I am afraid I will die”, “I am afraid of being hurt.” You must be as descriptive and precise as possible in identifying your emotion/feeling. Refer to Ashta Feeling List to help identify your feelings.
Our subconscious runs deep and like an onion we have many layers to peel.
Guideline 3: Speak only in a short sentence. The more we can narrow down our words to a sentence or two the more we are likely to be heard. When we feel heard our energy moves to a more natural flow and opens the channels of giving and receiving which is communication. To be able to communicate there must first be understanding of self and others.
Guideline 4: Wherever it is indicated to take a deep breath: inhale and exhale slowly but deeply. On the inhale feel the air going in through your nostrils, expanding your chest and stomach, moving deep down your legs and out through your toes.
On the exhale feel the air reverse, being sucked through your toes and slowly but steadily moving upwards as your stomach deflates and your lungs empty, passing your throat, and being released through your mouth, making the sound “aaaah.”
Guideline 5: Familiarize yourself with Ashta’s Feelings Guide. Many people have difficulty expressing and describing how they feel. Ashta-deb has put together a list of feelings to help you clarify and identify those root feelings that are often covered up.
Not Nice Technique
1. When a person says Not Nice both people must stop talking immediately. Remember Not Nice can be invoked when either party feels their emotions are escalating and becoming unbearable.
2. The moment Not Nice is said both parties must take a deep breath, as written in Guideline 4.
3. After the deep breath both parties must walk immediately to another room together in silence. Changing rooms helps change the level of energy being fed into the argument especially if silence is maintained and the intention is to deescalate the situation.
4. When in the other room the person who invoked “Not Nice” is the first person to speak. They must then take a deep breath and describe their feelings in one single sentence. Example: Not Nice – I feel unheard/broken and bruised/talked down to/belittled/insecure etc.” If you cannot identify your feeling refer to the Ashta’s Feelings Guide. There must be no mention of what started the argument only a focus on the feeling in the moment.
5. The other person must remain in silence and listen to the person who called Not Nice until they have finished their sentence. At that point, the person who did not call Not Nice has two options. Both options require 200% honesty.
a. I am sorry – “My intention was not to make you feel…” – use the word that the person used e.g. “I am sorry, it was not my intention to make you feel belittled.” This must be immediately followed up with what your intention was.
Take a deep breath and consider, what was your intention? “My intention was to help/explain/make you feel better/make a point to support me….”
b. If in fact you were being spiteful or demeaning and said anything with the intention to hurt, you must say – “I am sorry. I was being spiteful/mean/condescending…” or whatever it was you know in your heart you did. Refer to Ashta’s feelings List.
6. Both Parties must then agree if they need to walk away from the conflict or if in fact they can continue to carry on a more civil interaction in the moment.
Both parties must commit to exploring more deeply their reactive behaviour. They must commit to a time withing 48 hours to share what they learnt about themselves.
Exploring your behaviour means reflecting on your childhood upbringing and environment. Through self-questioning understand how your past has affected your relationship today. Journal your answer.
Journaling: Write the question on the top of your page as per the self-question examples below. Then set a timer for 7 minutes. When the timer starts write whatever comes to your mind as fast as you can, even if it doesn’t appear to be answering your question. When the timer alerts you drop the pen and read what you wrote.
As you read change anything you wrote as you/they/them/name etc. to first person “I.” Re-read again from the first person. Below are examples of self-questioning. Please replace with the emotion you identified:
a. For the person who called Not Nice a self-question example is: “Why did I feel belittled?” “When was the first time I experienced being belittled?” (Replace belittled with the word you identified).
b. For the other the self-question example is: “Why did I feel the need to help/explain/make my partner feel better/make a point to support myself?” Or
Why did I feel the need to hurt my partner?”, “Why did I want to be spiteful/snarly?” “When was the first time I experienced these feelings?”
c. Find the experience that your emotion is rooted in. Feel the similarity in emotion between the past experience and the current experience.
d. Self-question and journal:
i. “Who did I see acting in the same way I did?”
ii. “What could I have done differently?”
iii. “Why didn’t I do that in the first place?”
Remember be honest.
e. “Was my partner deserving of being hated on/lashed out etc. by me?” keep in mind no one deserves to be treated badly. Never put your karma on the line for anyone.
7. Both parties must then share their findings at the agreed upon time. Each person gets a chance to speak while the other listens. Each person must ask the other three questions based on something they said after they have finished speaking. Questioning is to ensure you heard your partner speak. The question must be directly related to what was said and the answer must be directly related to the questions. Meaning – no side stories, meaningless laughter or deflecting from the moment.
Remember this is not about solving the issue that started the conflict but to identify the feelings that triggered the conflict. After you have shared only then can you re-visit the original issue that started the whole upset.
This technique, if practiced wholeheartedly, will reap a closer connection and understanding in your relationship with others. It cultivates empathy for others with the awareness that each of us is carrying our own tainted view of the world due to childhood programming.
Mary Invokes Not Nice
Mary Invokes Not Nice
Mary and Jake had agreed to host a party on the coming Saturday. Since they both had busy schedules it was also agreed that the task of preparing for the party was to be shared. On Thursday they were to pick up the groceries and on Friday they were to prep the food. Thursday was uneventful. The groceries were picked up according to plan.
On Friday afternoon, they both arrived home from work at the same time. Mary dove in. She hastily changed from her work clothes and headed to the kitchen to start prepping for the party. Jake decided to rest a bit on the couch before starting.
After 15 minutes had gone by Mary called out to Jake.
“Hey, you coming?”
“Yeah, be there in a sec, this show has only 5 minutes left.”
“Okay can you hurry?” Mary countered.
After 15 minutes Mary called out again, “Damn it, Jake. Are you going to help or not?”
“I’m coming, I’m coming. Don’t be such a nag.”
Mary felt the tears burning her eyes. Her frustration boiled over.
“I’m not a nag. You said you were coming and you never did!”
“So I am a couple minutes late. What’s wrong? You had a bad day? No need to get so upset.” Jake’s voice dripped in sarcasm.
Mary’s frustration rose. She just wanted to prep the food. Getting Jake to commit to helping was difficult enough but to get him to carry out that help was just painful. Not wanting to escalate the situation she decided to invoke Not Nice.
Walking into the family room and looking at Jake head on, Mary took a deep breath and in an even voice she said, “Not Nice.” The two walked silently into the dining room, Mary leaving the kitchen and Jake the family room where he had be lying on the couch.
In the dining room Mary took a deep breath and said, “I feel dismissed and taken for granted.”
Jake took a deep breath, he wanted to say, “I am sorry, my intention was to show you I care about you by asking if you had a bad day.” The impulse was strong, he struggled and tried to ignore his subtle sarcasm. Thinking of the guidelines which repeatedly emphasized 100% honesty Jake knew he had to be honest. Finally, he said, “I am sorry. I was being sarcastic and lazy.”
Jake and Mary decided to continue the prep work together, civilly. Jake immediately went to the kitchen to help.
Jake and Mary agreed on a time within 48 hours to complete the Not Nice self-awareness exercises.
Mary knew the drill and was almost regretful of invoking Not Nice because she and Jake had a great time in the kitchen after the incident. But now, having to reflect on her feelings, knowing that Jake was wrong, she felt that the Not Nice was unfair. However, trusting in the process, she dove in.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath she self-questioned: “Why did I feel dismissed?” “When was the first time I felt dismissed?” It wasn’t long before a memory came to her. She saw/felt herself around the of age 7. She was aware of being in her childhood home. She saw herself trying to make cupcakes for school. She looked tired and frazzled. She saw her mother on the couch; drunk and unable to help her. The feeling back then was the same feeling she experienced today seeing Jake lying on the couch during the argument.
In that instance she saw Jake’s exhaustion. His tired face and sore feet. His job required him to stand for 8 hours straight. She felt shame as she recalled how she insisted he stand to prep the food the way she liked it even though he had asked for a stool to sit on. Again, she felt the pain from her past. She allowed herself to cry and release what she had been carrying for years.
Mary saw the mother who had hurt her and the husband who was tired. She continued to cry softly as she thought of what she could have done differently. She could have rested with Jake before starting but instead her desire to get things done immediately overcame her. She could have done her share and left Jake’s share for him to do when he was ready, but her care giver mentality prevented her from seeing that option. She could have suggested they rest today and prep tomorrow since there wasn’t much to do.
Mary thought of the compulsion that made her lash out instead of calmly choosing an alternate solution. She felt all those times when she had wanted to lash out at her mom but was unable to. Mary felt deep remorse as she realized that her partner didn’t deserve what she had dished out. Jake had every right to be tired and to change the prep plan if he wanted to.
Mary felt remorse as she reflected on her initial thought which was that Jake was wrong and it was unfair for her to have to do the self-awareness exercise as well. Journaling her revelations, she was excited to share with Jake.
Jake felt guilty at what he had done. He knew his laziness was his worst trait. When challenged, it seemed to bring out an aggression he himself didn’t understand. Taking a deep breath he closed his eyes and began to self-question – “Why did I feel the need to be sarcastic?” He instantly felt the need to protect himself. He saw himself using sarcasm as a way of protecting himself.
Jake went further – “When was the first time I felt the need to be sarcastic or use sarcasm as a way of protecting myself?” Jake saw himself in the school yard. His memory came crisp and sharp. He saw the school yard bully taunting him. He felt hatred for the bully. He felt his aggression to Mary. It was no different from what he felt for the bully.
Jake envisioned Mary calling him to the kitchen. He became aware of how tired she looked and how weak her voice sounded. He recalled hearing her cough at breakfast that morning. Her skin did feel hot when he kissed her goodbye.
Jake saw himself lying on the couch. Then he saw his father lying on the couch. The awareness that he was doing exactly what his father had done hit him hard. He recalled how he felt miserable and resentful having to help his mom while his dad slept on the couch.
Jake saw the school yard bully again, he couldn’t stand up to the bully, and he realized he felt weak to stand up and tell Mary how tired he was. He saw his sarcasm.
Jake felt a burst of compassion for Mary. She didn’t have to do things for him but she did. She expressed her love in ways he couldn’t. Jake thought about what he could have done differently. “I could have been honest and told her I was tired” he thought. “I could have turned off the TV and come the first time she called.” “I could have said I am sorry instead of being sarcastic.” Jake sobbed. Mary did not deserve what he dished out.
Jake and Mary went over their realizations. Mary spoke and Jake listened intently. He asked her three questions. After Mary answered she in turn asked her three questions.
The revelations brought Jake and Mary closer than ever. They began to realize how their respective pasts were interfering with their current relationship. They re-committed to understanding each other.
Jake and Mary continued to take care of their individual issues so that together they could take care of each other.