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Aug. 24, 2022

Episode 41: Pursuing Better Relationship Through Conflict with Dr. Emi Garzitto

Episode 41: Pursuing Better Relationship Through Conflict with Dr. Emi Garzitto

🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken let's get going. 🎶

🎶 Episode Intro: Welcome to episode 41 of the pursuing uncomfortable podcast. My goodness, episode 41. I can't believe it. Thank you so much for tuning in each week for another episode. Today we have Dr. Emi Garzitto with us. She is an expert when it comes to conflict. That is something we really like to avoid, but  she's going to tell us how rewarding it can be to lean into the conflict. When we lean into the conflict, when we resolve it, and look beyond it, our relationships can grow stronger and deeper than we imagined. Don't run from conflict, run straight to it, and through it. And as always hop over to the blog at melissaebken.com/blog to ask a question, leave a comment and keep the conversation going. Now let's meet Dr. Emi. 🎶

Melissa Ebken  0:04  
Emi, welcome to the podcast or I should say Dr. Emi Garzitto, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. How are you today?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  0:13  
I'm great, thank you for having me.

Melissa Ebken  0:17  
I couldn't be more thrilled. You work in an area that is a passion of mine. And when it comes to conflict, resolution of conflict, working on conflict, the inner struggle, the forgiveness of self, and you know, on and on. Yeah, I'm so passionate about this. So I'm so excited to talk to you today. You are joining us from British Columbia.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  0:41  
That's right. That's right. And, Melissa, I share that passion so I look forward to our dialogue.

Melissa Ebken  0:53  
Well, let's just jump right into it, shall we?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  0:55  
Okay, let's Yes, let's. 

Melissa Ebken  0:59  
Awesome. You know, so many times people will come to me as a pastor, I'm a pastor, did I tell you that? 

Dr. Emi Garzitto  1:05  
Yes, yeah 

Melissa Ebken  1:06  
For 20 some years now. And they will talk about a situation that is difficult, or it's uncomfortable, there's conflict. And the conflict is always a bad thing. And it's always something they want to fix, and that other people need fixed. What do you have to say about that situation?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  1:30  
Well, I mean, I think I'm gonna start by saying, it is inherently part of our biology to both have conflict and to hate it. So the response is very much part of our, our hardwired system. And some of it works for us. And some of it works against us. So some quick thoughts on, you know, my orientation, just so that people are aware, conflict is an exa, a key factor in any organism that is alive. In other words, if we are living, we will experience conflict. So I think it's really important for us to just start with the get go that this is, this is not a terrible thing, the pain might be, the discomfort or how it gets handled, can be traumatic. But the fact that we are in conflict means that we care. So if I'm fighting with my husband, it means I care, you know, the opposite of love. What I tell my clients, the opposite of love is not hate. Because hate is still an investment. You want something? The opposite of love, Yeah, is indifference. So there's, there's an opportunity there.

Melissa Ebken  3:11  
I love that. 

Dr. Emi Garzitto  3:13  
Yeah. So can I just add to that? Yeah. So my, one of my favorite definitions is from Danaan Parry, who says conflict is an opportunity for intimacy. And when I first Yeah, exactly when I first heard him say that, or when I read that, I just remember being blown away, because in my personal life, it has always been seen as something very dangerous, something that means that you're wrong, that you're bad. And Danaan Parry just flipped that and said, here, whenever there is a space of disconnect, or conflict, there is a space for healing, for being better than for being more than. The challenge is what is in the way of that space, that healing, that intimacy is vulnerability. And that's the pain point that we struggle with.

Melissa Ebken  4:24  
Absolutely. Who enjoys being vulnerable?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  4:27  
Nobody. Said no one ever

Melissa Ebken  4:32  
Yeah. I think we should make a distinction right up front, that we're not talking about an abusive situation or the extremes when it comes to conflict, because those are different conversations.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  4:45  
Exactly. And so we're not talking about how people manage conflict because that's where we get into trouble. That's where we get the abuse and whatnot. It is. It is what is it exactly? Right. So conflict is telling us something is wrong and needs, it needs our attention. It's information, like all our feelings are information. And there is something that needs our attending.

Melissa Ebken  5:17  
So if I came to you and talked about a situation I was having, say, with coworkers. Where would you have me start? In that?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  5:29  
That's a great place for us to start. And that would be where I start is by, again, asking a lot of questions about you, the client was coming to see me. You can't fix other people, but you can fix, learn, understand and appreciate you. And when any piece of the ecosystem changes, the entire ecosystem changes. So I start with you. And I start with trying to ask questions that will help identify your own internal conflict. So I talk about your pain first.

Melissa Ebken  6:17  
So that can be hard at first. 

Dr. Emi Garzitto  6:18  
Oh, absolutely. 

Melissa Ebken  6:20  
Because I'm coming to you and I want you to fix these people. Exactly. Because these people around me need fixing exactly, and I probably expended a lot of time and energy so far, trying to get that done. And then you're telling me wait a minute, turn that focus inwards?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  6:38  
Exactly. So the most powerful tool you have is you and your internal ecosystem. And we know that that's true even more in terms of what we're learning about our neurobiology. So the more we learn about the hard science of how our cells, how our brain works, the more we realize how powerful your feelings, your experiences are in the community that you serve. So I'll give you a big example. Because I work in schools and with children. And you may have spoken with other individuals or through your own studies about stress contagion. So we know that the person who has the biggest ball of power in a space, their internal nervous system has a huge impact on everyone around. And that's true for everybody. So if I'm in a, I'm in a family of five, everybody's nervous system matters. But the person who has the most power matters the most. So it's very important that we speak from what we can do first. So in the case of a classroom, the first thing a teacher needs needs to do when they see a dysregulated class is they need to manage their nervous system first. So it's backwards, we're used to even in our teaching, we say, we have to control our classroom, we have to manage that ecosystem. And what we're learning about our brains is that the fastest way to do that is to face your students and manage your nervous system. So I'm gonna give you an example of what that looks like concretely, and just stop me because you know, like, I get so jazzed up and excited when I talk about this.

Melissa Ebken  8:57  
Same, I might interrupt you 43 times.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  9:02  
So in this example, the the old way, the way we were taught with classroom management would be to focus on the students, or maybe even say, I see Jeffrey breathing and calm. Thank you, Jeffrey. I see Jessica, you know, sitting down on the carpet. Thank you, Jessica. Whereas now, the way that we would work with teachers to to help classroom management is, we would say, what are you feeling and manage your internal nervous system in front of your class. So when I'm in the classroom teaching, and there's a dysregulated class, I'm going to go, wow, it's really noisy in here and a little bit nervous. So I'm going to shake my hands and I'm going to take some deep breaths. And as I'm doing this, I'm facing them. And I'm saying out loud what I'm doing. And it is incredible how quickly students will begin following your lead. And using your own their own techniques to manage themselves.

Melissa Ebken  10:21  
Your neurons. We tend to do what we see. So

Dr. Emi Garzitto  10:27  
And feel. Yeah, yeah. 

Melissa Ebken  10:31  
Sounds like anxiety is really contagious.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  10:35  
Absolutely. And that amps up the story of conflict. So conflict starts. I'm going to use a big generalization, but it's a, I think it's a good place to start. I'm in conflict. When thumped something you've said or done, or something I've experienced, hits at some vulnerable spot that is very painful for me. That's what conflict is. Because you can tell three different people. You're fat and ugly. And one person may take that as a violation. And another person may think that's annoying, but have no impact. And another person might look at it and go, that's about you. What is it that you need to pay attention to? Because it's not me. Right? So the conflict is about our own experience, like where are we attached to our pain point. That's why our loved ones are so fabulous at helping us get those triggers going and helping us reach those pain points very effectively.

Melissa Ebken  11:57  
Now, from what you're saying, I get a picture of leadership as one who is very calm, who is very connected, and who is able to just kind of step into the situation calmly, and relate to the people in that system from that place of calm, that that would spread then and counteract the anxiety.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  12:27  
And I would, I would highlight that you are aware, and you're willing to be aware of your body sensations, because that's where all our feelings start. They start in our nervous system in our body. It's not a head thing. It's a body thing. And in fact, I'm going to add that all our moral practice is not a brain thing. It's a body thing. So the the more and I see my PhD was in moral education and conflict. So I'm very interested in what like how do we help people do the right thing? How do we help people get along? And that moral practice is what you said in terms of it's what we do is what we see the people, especially our leaders are the people, like our parents, people who we endow our largest amount of trust and safety to. What they do, what they feel and how they manage it, is how you how you are what you are teaching. Moral practice doesn't happen in what you say it's not in. It's not in the words of the commandments. It is in the experience. So if I am gonna use sort of that biblical reference, an example that has meaning to me is that Jesus, the biblical Jesus practiced, had an enormous moral practice, where it was what he did, what he experienced, but developed relationship before speaking of a rule, and that's, that is how we, this is how we learn our moral practice. It's through what we see the others around us, especially those that we trust, what are they doing, what are they modeling? And how do we feel? What are our feelings? Are we in danger? Do we feel safe?

Melissa Ebken  15:00  
You know, I can see a scenario where there's a spider, and there's a young child. And in one scenario, the adult present says, There's a spider! That's going to elicit a response, probably more like a fight or flight response, or that type of response. In both of them. A different adult in the same scenario might say, oh, there's a spider, the same exact words, but their experience of it and their actions around it create a completely different experience for that child.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  15:40  
That is a beautiful example. And that's exactly what we're speaking to. That we're always wanting to build the conditions that help our bodies learn what it feels like to be safe enough to be dangerous.

Melissa Ebken  16:02  
That is quite a sentence to feel safe enough to be dangerous.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  16:09  
Now I use it a lot. It's a Agosta Boyle's term. And it is one that he used to look at, like, even in liberation theology is ways in which to help build communities that would be able to speak to the ugly in the culture, and to move forward. So, yeah, so that's, that's sort of my that's my hope, like, what how can we help workplaces, schools, families, communities, sit, sit alongside discomfort, and still show up. Not leave the room, not ask. Not ask the discomfort to leave the room. That we get to all sit at the table, and find a way.

Melissa Ebken  17:18  
You know, Albert Einstein, I'm pretty sure I'm attributing his quote correctly. And by quote, I mean, a terrible paraphrase of a really wise thing he said, but he said something to the effect of that the person we are, when the problem was created, that's not going to be the same person that finds the resolution. And we have some growing to do we have some new thinking, some new vulnerabilities, some new expectations, some new actions to do in order to find a solution. And when you're talking about group building, community building, it really struck me that we do a lot of this is what I think. And the other people will say, This is what I think. But the growth happens when we can sit together and say, Okay, this is the this is the different ways that we think, what does that point us to beyond that? What's that new growth, that new learning that new mindset and understanding that will propel us forward? And it's not a comfortable process to get there. And you each have to be willing to be vulnerable. And honest. Yeah, in order to get there. That's the hard work.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  18:43  
Yeah, you know, it is hard work. It's hard work. And it is work. It I and in the phrase I like in the paraphrase of Einstein's quote. Which I think about a lot too like, and I equate it to like the paradigm shift. It's like, we can't think of this in this paradigm. And I feel like we're in the midst of like some mother loads of paradigm shifts right now. Yeah, and the one in terms of conflict is what you just said, you know, we're taking these positions, this is how I what I think this is what I think and we get position and then we try to understand in here, okay, so this is what you think this is what you think. The paradigm shift for me in the way that we're not looking at conflict is, this is how I feel. And this is where I feel it so that we become aware and own our, our experiences, our pain, our point of view and our position. Not from a place of the right and wrong from the rule from the box. But from my body. That's the paradigm shift that I think we are working at making.

Melissa Ebken  20:17  
I love that you mentioned that. I worked with a friend of mine recently, and we did a whole series on how the body is feelings embodied, how diseases dis-ease. It's those feelings in our bodies, and they get stuck in there. You know, if I'm angry with someone or harboring a grudge against someone, and I walk into a diner expecting to meet a friend and looking forward to having a great time, and see that person in the front of the diner. Oh, it immediately elicits a visceral reaction in my gut. Right? Yeah. And to the extent that I can release that, it's going to have an effect on my afternoon. 100% Yeah. And if I'm feeling stress now my shoulders and neck really tighten up. If I'm fearful, my lower back, I really feel it there. I think there's so much power and potential in what you're saying that identifying our feelings, as parts of our embodied experience has tremendous potential. Right? What are next steps? If we realize that what what do we do with that?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  21:40  
Yeah, so here are my thoughts on that, in a nutshell. Your conflict did not start yesterday. It is not an overnight thing. It took years, sometimes your lifetime, sometimes generations beyond your lifetime, in the making. There is not a quick fix. And so that's one piece, if you will, you, we, our communities need to play the long game. So that's one piece, the second piece, so, so the biggest piece of the long game is don't look to fix something overnight. Because ultimately, what we're trying to do is, I'm my I'm in pain, I want this pain to go away. I don't want to own it, I want to give it to you. You know, in another level, that's what every conflict is about. And the work, that hard work that we're talking about, Melissa is, oh, no, this is mine. What part of this is mine? What do I need to be accountable for? You know, what is my piece here? It's, you know, if somebody hits me, you know, randomly that's not okay. But I still need to own my, what I'm going to do about it, and how I'm going to respond.

Melissa Ebken  23:16  
So if we change our relationship to conflict, if we change our behaviors and attitudes toward it, is that what you're saying? Will it cause will bring about transformation? And us and maybe those were connected to?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  23:33  
Yes. And the first piece is there's some real pragmatics. And so the first piece is what's happening for me? What, when somebody, somebody just called me ugly, whoa, what's happening rather than, like, because my biology is going to want to punch him, or hurt him more than I feel my pain. That's my biology, I have to work against my biology to go inward and say, you know, what's my experience? Ouch, that hurt. Where does it hurt? It's like a sucker punch in my gut. Okay, I'm gonna take some like to just really take some time to pay attention to your body and to, to manage that piece. So to me, that's the number one practice we need to get good at is. Ask ourselves a couple of times in the day. How am I feeling? Okay, I'm feeling I'm feeling relaxed. Okay, where do you feel it? I feel it. I feel in my chest. I feel it in my throat. It feels like I can take a deep breath. That's it. That we get really good at becoming aware of what our body is saying to us.

Melissa Ebken  25:09  
Thank you for that. That is one takeaway. One piece of homework that we can do from this podcast is to ask ourselves, What am I feeling? Where am I feeling it? Yeah. Love that. Yeah. Now I was nosing around on your website because I do a little bit of cyber stalking by a little bit. I mean, well, let's not go there. Anyway. I love all that you have to offer there and I downloaded the free conflict resolution. Am I naming that correctly? I don't believe I am.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  25:42  
Conflicts. Conflict, Alchemist Handbook,

Melissa Ebken  25:45  
Conflict Alchemist Handbook. Thank you. There's so much good stuff there. I mean, if somebody wanted to do a deep dive, there's so many opportunities, there's so much to learn so much to incorporate. Yeah, folks, the link to that is in the show notes, make sure you go to Dr. Emi's website and check out well, everything. But make sure you download that you don't have to enter anything, you don't have to enter your name, you don't have to enter your email, you click a button, and there it is. And you can download it to print out, you can download it to have it on your device. But check it out. I learned within three minutes, so much. So thank you for making that available. Thank you, we have an action to move forward that we can do immediately. What do I feel? Where do I feel it. And then you've also given this amazing resource that we can use to for the long game, as you say. And that's important when it comes to marriages and relationships with parents and in laws and children and, and in laws going that direction and places we work, the groups we're a part of the communities we live in, it's just endless. It's endless. Yeah. And there's so much conflict right now. Yeah. So much.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  27:12  
I'm just gonna point to one other piece in that handbook, and that there's a page at the end, that gives you a whole pile of strategies like moving your feet from side to side, shaking your hand, rubbing your, your belly. Like there's a, there's a pile of strategies, and they're very, they're, they, they look physical, they're because because much of this is here. But all of that is hard research around what helps calm or vagal nerve. And, and, again, it is a good practice to look, you know, even if you just check that list out and go, Okay, I'm going to work on these three things. And I'm going to do them every day for the week and see how that goes. So that you start building your own internal mechanisms. And you know, you have your own little cheat sheet on what you need to do to manage your nervous system.

Melissa Ebken  28:13  
Filling up a little toolbox. I love it. 

Dr. Emi Garzitto  28:15  
Exactly yeah

Melissa Ebken  28:17  
You know, we might be in a meeting and it wouldn't be necessarily appropriate to shake our hands, but also on that list was just putting our hand over our heart. That's something you can do in almost any context. So yeah, check out that list. There are so many good strategies, so many tools for managing conflict, for feeling it for addressing it. Emi, you are a huge resource. And I hope that people will check out your information and even contact you because you do really important work. And thank you for doing that.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  28:55  
And well. And thank you for letting me speak to this because you it's just so important to get the word out. And thank you for the your own work that you do. And I've mentioned this before, but I just want to publicly say I love the title of your podcast. And I just think it is important work to get out there to help communities build that resilience.

Melissa Ebken  29:23  
I appreciate that. And changing our mindsets around conflict that it doesn't have to be terrible. But it's a sign of growth. We have growing pains. It's a sign that there's growth and potential that can be helpful. So I'm gonna let you have any last words. Do you have any last words to leave us with today?

Dr. Emi Garzitto  29:44  
My only other last words are like there's a lot of there's a lot of free information on the website so you can take a look. I think I also gave you the list of sort of my cheat notes. There is a I also have a book Your Beautiful Trauma. And again, it's kind of cheat notes on how to manage crisis. Like if you're in crisis, what do you do? And it's kind of a step by step guide. But you don't have to buy anything. There's lots of material on the website that is helpful immediately.

Melissa Ebken  30:22  
Who's not a big fan of cheat notes? Thanks for that. Right, be well, and thank you for everything you shared today.

Dr. Emi Garzitto  30:31  

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