Let’s pretend that you have to have an awkward, uncomfortable conversation or confrontation or something else that begins with “con” coming up.

And I’ll just go ahead and assume that you’re totally not looking forward to it.

Anyway, even if that’s not what’s going on for you right now, it will be the case at some point, because relationships between people? Sometimes hard and messy.

Just play along with me.

Because I promised you yesterday that today I’d teach an extremely cool and useful technique a wacky exercise to help with that. And now I’m going to.

The exercise: Finding your common ground.

This is what people who are slightly wackier than me would call an alignment exercise. The idea is that you consciously create a sense of the possibility of getting into alignment with the person you’re in conflict with, so that you can empathize with him (or her).

And — equally important — so you can have some empathy with yourself.

The basic idea behind it:

If you’re going to confront someone about something (even if this conversation is only going to happen in your head), you really want to get to the point where you can do it out of kindness … and not out of aggravation and anger.

Because otherwise it’s not going to go well. Your communication is just going to get all knotted up.

What you want to do — symbolically — is to establish some common ground between you.

It works like this:

Step 1. You brainstorm as many things as possible that you and this person have in common. At least ten, but the more the better.

Step 2. You WRITE THEM DOWN.

Step 3. You say them out loud. I like to do this part pretty casually and conversationally … I’ll try and demonstrate that in the example thing (yes, there will be an example thing).

Step 4. You keep at Step #3 until Something Cool happens.

IMPORTANT:
If Something Cool doesn’t happen you throw the world’s biggest temper tantrum repeat Step #3 while tapping gently but firmly with two fingers at the spot directly underneath your nose and above your mouth.

But I promised an example thing for how this can work…

The scenario: confronting a friend.

In yesterday’s anonymous Ask Havi, we were dealing with an extremely awkward situation.

This woman’s friend was leaving inappropriately self-promotional borderline-spammy comments on all their friends’ blogs.

She (the woman who wrote to me) wanted to know how to approach this thing, and Selma and I gave her a number of suggestions about non-confrontational things she could do.

But let’s say she actually wants to sit down and have the awkward, uncomfortable conversation. The best way to approach this is by first using our alignment technique to diffuse the awkward, uncomfortable bits.

The alignment technique makes this likely-to-be-horrible potential conversation a. bearable, and b. doable.

Here’s what it looks like …

Okay, imagine that I am speaking for this woman. This is what the alignment exercise might look like. Obviously I could have some of the details wrong, but it’s your exercise, so you can put the right ones in.

Let’s see …

  • My friend and I both write blogs.
  • My friend started her business to help people. I write my blog to help people. That’s something we have in common.
  • We both really care about making a difference in people’s lives even if we have different ways of showing it or going about it.
  • We both are kind of struggling with our businesses right now.
  • We both want positive attention for what we’re doing and aren’t really always sure how to get it.
  • We both feel insecure sometimes about what we’re doing.
  • My friend wants to feel safe and loved. I want to feel safe and loved. That’s something else we have in common.

Even though I’m still feeling upset with her, I’m realizing that she’s probably doing what she’s doing because she doesn’t know what to do. I have that feeling all the time.

Even though I have different ideas of how to deal with that feeling, I’m recognizing that she’s really hurting and confused — and it’s getting easier for me to identify with that.

I think I’d really like to just be able to give her some loving attention right now. And I’d like to be receiving some loving attention of my own. Maybe both of these things are possible.

Ahhhhhhhhh … well done.

I don’t know if you felt it, but Something Cool just happened.

In fact, I could feel it while I was writing this exercise.

A softening. A sense of spaciousness. As if some tiny little tight place in my heart just got some more breathing room.

And this isn’t even my problem.

That’s the power of the alignment exercise. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes when you do the alignment exercise you don’t actually have to go ahead and have the conversation because weirdness occurs and stuff just sorts itself out.

Yes, you are right. That is bizarre.

But (for example) once when I was having this huge conflict with a yoga studio because they wouldn’t pay me for a workshop I’d taught there …

I did this exercise. It took about ten minutes because I was feeling so angry and hurt. And when I was done, I felt like I was really ready to have a peaceful conversation with their accounting department.

And then I went to look up their phone number online, and found an email from their programs guy saying they’d realized they were completely in the wrong and a check was in the mail.

Ha.

Take that, weird cosmic alignment thing!

So you’re going to try it, right?

The brave participants in my last Habits Detective training course all did this exercise a ton of times after I forced them to. With ridiculously fantastic results.

Of course I always forget how awesome it is myself, until my duck is like, Dude. Do the alignment exercise. It will make everything better.

So this is basically as much a reminder to me as it is to you. Go do it.

And report back. Because Selma and I would love to know how it went.