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October 12, 2015

Finding Peace With A Difficult Situation

We have all faced difficult situations. Some leave us wondering how we allowed ourselves to be treated so badly, while others really seem to leave permanent, and traumatic scars. These scars are emotional, mental, and psychological (some may also argue, psychic). In our constant efforts to be better people, overcome difficult situations and improve our emotional intelligence, I would like to share with you an exercise you can use to face and overcome difficult situations.

Step 1: Tell YOUR HONEST story of the event.
Find a place you can be alone, or if you have a trusted friend who won’t judge you, start talking. Tell this story from YOUR point of view. It is important when telling this story to clearly narrate:
  • The behaviors
  • The events
  • Your feelings
  • Your thoughts
How do those feelings and thoughts manifest in your body? For instance, if you are nervous, how do you know about it in your body? How do you feel it? Do you sweat? Do you shake? Does your heart beat faster? Do you talk faster or slower?

I mention to tell the honest version because sometimes with challenging situations, we may sugar coat it or tell ourselves a version that’s easier to listen to or represses some thoughts or feelings. The purpose of this exercise is to bring it out and talk about it. It is not easy. It is scary. It’s intimidating. But, only once we can face our demons, we know what they are and can manage them better. (Or, with a lot of determination, rid of them completely!)

Step 2: Identify which feelings and thoughts YOU DID NOT LIKE
This may seem simple, but often it’s not. Often when we repress or block out something and tell ourselves a better version, we may have forgotten what we liked or didn’t like. If it helps, write it out. See it in black and white. Believe me, it works wonders!

*Take note, no feeling is 'bad' in itself. We should not feel guilty for our feelings, but take ownership of them. We do not like a feeling because it is uncomfortable. If we can deal with this discomfort, we can handle it better in the future.

Step 3: Identify what could have been DONE DIFFERENTLY
  • Which outcomes occurred because of our inability to effectively deal with the situation? (In some of these cases it is NOT our fault, but here, the main goal is to learn to take responsibility for what we have done, both good and not-so-good.)
  • How could we have dealt with the situation better or differently?
  • Have we seen others deal with this situation successfully?
  • What made it successful?
  • Which skills or personality traits did that person have that could be helpful in best resolving similar situations in the future?
We are not playing a blame game here, but learning to take responsibility for our actions. We are not victims. We are empowered individuals. Empowered individuals are not perfect. Empowered individuals do not only take responsibility for the good they do, but also admit to their shortcomings and find ways to overcome them.

Step 4: How to Resolve These Issues
We have touched on this above. Identify skills others have, such as role models or others who deal with difficult situations with more ease. What are those skills? How can you gain those skills? What can you do to take small steps (or big steps) to empower yourself in these difficult situations? Do you have a friend who can role play these situations with you? Keep practicing the role play until you feel more comfortable and confident managing the situation.

Remember solving difficult situations with others does NOT mean to ‘become abrasive ‘ or ‘difficult’ like they may have been. There are ways to stand up for ourselves, be self confident and manage difficult situations in a firm, empathetic tone of voice that is respectful of the other person as well as our self. This is empowering to both (or all) parties involved. Be a victim no more!

Author, Jennifer Kumar is a coach helping Indians and Americans bridge the cultural gap with soft-skills and personality development coaching. The activity in this post has been used in various formats in a training on conflict resolution. For more information on our training programs, contact us

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How to deliver bad news or feedback others may not like to hear 
Do I have culture shock? 
Uncomfortable Discussions: 8 Ways to Talk about Touchy Topics 

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.