READING ABOUT EMOTIONAL MATURITY IS OFTEN NOT ENOUGH
When you first learned to ride a bicycle, it probably helped that someone told you some basic ideas. Perhaps your big brother explained to you that when you want to go forward on a bike, you must push down with your foot on the pedal that is highest. When you do that you will see the other pedal start to rise up. When the other pedal comes all the way up, you have to push that one down with your other foot.
This type of verbal description can be very helpful, but no amount of it will get anyone to be a smooth bicycle rider. For that, people have to get up on the bike and try to coordinate all that they have heard, fall down, get back up on the bike, and try again and again, until they learn by doing.
Learning skills that lead to emotional maturity is similar in many ways. To learn them, you have to apply what you have heard or read by doing it, make mistakes, and try again and again until you get smooth at coordinating the skills. In today’s post, I offer a suggestion for practicing the skills taught on this blog that won’t cost you a red cent.
A Suggestion for Skill Practice
Go to your calendar and for each week over the next month, draw a circle on a day that you can spare five minutes. Next to the circle, write “CONFLICT?” This message is designed to remind you that on each of the circled dates you are to take five minutes to write down on a sheet of paper the most difficult conflict that you had or are currently having during the week. Keep this paper on your refrigerator door. You will see it there each time you reach for some food. This will help to remind you to check your calendar and to follow through with this plan.
When you write out your description of the conflict, use two sentences to describe the conflict from your perspective and two sentences from how you think the other party views or viewed the conflict. Remember to use the DIG Conflict Model for doing this.
In addition to these weekly calendar reminders, also draw a double circle on your calendar on a day that falls close to a month after you start this plan. Pick a day for the double circle day that you can spare a half hour to do the following: Take down from your refrigerator your list of the different conflicts that you described each week. Go to the first post of this blog and skim it to see if any of its ideas apply to any of the conflicts that you had over the past month. Then begin to flip through the other blog posts one by one by pressing the link in each post that is labeled “Newer Entry.” You’ll find these “Newer Entry” links toward the bottom right of each post just before the comments section. As you go to each newer entry post, take note of some ideas that have begun to fade from your memory. Read over a few of the comics. This will refresh your memory of some of the ideas that are connected to how the comic was used in the post. It will also help you to keep your sense of humor as you wrestle with your conflict problems.
When you come upon posts that are specifically related to the various conflicts you described over the course of the month, thoroughly reread them. If you have resolved any of the conflicts, write out the resolution and comment how well the resolution worked out.
As you do this, from time to time you will come up with some ideas about how you can better handle a similar conflict if it should come up in the future. Write these ideas out. Then, close your eyes and imagine you are carrying out these ideas. Rehearse what you would say in your mind, how you would say it, and how you would reply depending on three or four possible reactions from the other party in the conflict.
Once you can smoothly carry out your imaginary rehearsal, do it three more times. It helps to practice a little beyond just being smooth because this will help you to carry them out if the situation becomes emotionally charged.
After the first month of carrying out this plan, do it again each month over the course of a full year and you will find that you now can almost instantly describe conflicts using the DIG Conflict Model. Moreover, you will have been practicing for a full year how to apply the conflict resolution skills taught on this blog to the types of conflicts you tend to face in your own life.
To help you to follow through with this skill enhancement strategy, let someone who is particularly reliable know about this plan. Have that person ask you once a week if you have followed through with this plan. During these reminders, spend a few minutes to discuss with this reliable person what you have been learning.
Such help should not go without a reward. Let the person who is to be giving you the reminder know that if you manage to complete a whole year of this exercise, you will treat him or her to dinner at a fine restaurant. If you are too young to take someone out for dinner, then see if your parents will be your reminder. Parents can often be persuaded to help their sons and daughters just out of pure love.
Conflict resolution training programs have not advanced so far as to eliminate the need for problem solving every now and then. Nor has there been an intervention created that will keep anger from rearing its mischievous head from time to time. In order to prepare for such events, I encourage you to view lapses in your skills not as a sign of helplessness, but as a sign to get yourself as quickly and safely as you can to the region of challenge. Once there, wisely use the relative period of peace and calm.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.