If you have worked through the last few posts you will have identified your values, checked that they really are values, worked out how effectively you act in line with them in conflict and figured out how you behave in conflict when you are really not doing well. As you have probably guessed by now, doing the exercises in these posts is like walking up a set of stairs. They build on each other to help you to get to a place where you are able to identify the specifics of what you want to actually do when you are experiencing conflict. Today you will pull lots of those things together to work out how you can behave more in line with your values.
In this step you need to come up with specific actions that express the value that you hold in conflict. For example, one of my values is curiosity. Since I tend to assume intentions onto behaviour, one of my value-based actions is to ask myself ‘what would happen if I treated the assumption that I know the intention behind an action as a belief rather than a fact?’. I also ask myself ‘what action could I take to be kind to myself or the other person now?’ And ‘do I need a break?’. These questions are, for me, an expression of curiosity and a way of incorporating it into my behaviour in arguments. This isn’t yet automatic for me, but being really specific about the questions I need to ask myself has helped me immensely to actually be more curious about myself and partners in conflict.
Each person will have different values and ways of expressing them. By sitting with each value in turn and working out what behaviours you could do to express that value in conflict, you can discover ways of being more intentional about how you behave. Because you are focusing on your own values, you are finding ways to be more yourself, rather than reacting to stray urges and thoughts that pop into your mind when you are having an argument. Most of us are not our best selves in conflict, and the thoughts and urges that we have rarely represent the person we would most like to be. By thinking about valued actions in advance of conflict it makes it easier to figure out how you want to behave so you can put it into practice when things aren’t so great.
To help you to actually put your actions into practice, it is useful to make a note of the things that you hope will be different if you manage to act in the ways you have noted. This might include clearing up misunderstandings before conflict escalates, being more open to being comforted, taking more breaks so you can be less distressed, angry or scared. The worksheet below has space for your values, actions and hopes.