09/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Be Your Own Mediator: Disconnect the Reaction from the Person

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.

--Marcus Aurelius

Keep your negative reaction to a person from expanding into denigration of that person.

The person readily morphs into your reaction to them. For example, you are insulted so therefore the other person is insulting. The other person responds in kind and unless cooler heads prevail you are on the road to Armageddon.

Stepping back and separating your reaction from the person is the challenge. Under stress you are more likely to connect the feeling to the person causing that feeling. Over time that identification solidifies. For example, if the other person says something that hurts you, you say to yourself that that person was hurtful. Over time, the negativity grows and you eventually say to the person, "You are such a jerk!"

Step back and examine your thought process to keep from falling into the reaction equals person trap. When the other person offends you, catch yourself generalizing and jumping to conclusions. Especially when you are accumulating mounds of evidence against this person, test how ready you are to join your reaction to the other person.

Do the same thing for yourself. When you get angered or frustrated you can fall into the trap of becoming your reaction. Someone has angered you, so you become an angry person. Someone has frustrated you, so you become a frustrated person.

When you can distance yourself from your response, you separate the reaction from yourself. Very often, a person says something like, "I reacted by yelling back at him. I had to. The person made me angry." The person has allowed their reaction to become who they are. Your emotional reaction says at least as much about you as it does about the other person, maybe more.

As a third party to a conflict I am still amazed at how my mere presence seems to calm and soothe parties by helping them step back from taking their negativity further. Individuals behave better, either because an outsider is present or they want to move toward closure. Sometimes, the disconnection is superficial -- the individual holds the same views, but the person is not articulating them. However, even that can help lead to a changed perspective. When you stop the chain reaction, you become your own mediator.

By the same token, a person should not swallow strong emotions. Dramatic problems may call for dramatic actions. Greater maturity may actually lead to more courageous choices that yield greater impact. A mindful response rather than an unconscious reaction will ultimately serve you better.

My next post will focus on the importance of setting relationship goals.

To learn more about the importance of communication skills particularly in negotiation and conflict resolution, read about the solutions, results and publications Grande Lum has created at Accordence, Inc.

For further discussion, contact Grande at

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste.