If petty and meddlesome people stress you out try to begin looking at their slights, insults and jabs as a form of training. Being insulted offers you an opportunity to practice having a non-response internally by remaining calm. It’s a practice and it takes time, but it is very possible to learn this skill. Start with small slights and attacks and when they occur – steady yourself by setting the intention and by saying to yourself, “Alright. This person is giving me an opportunity to practice having a non-response internally”. Just the context of this practice as an opportunity will begin to help. Then continue practicing with each incident while exploring yourself and trying to better understand your feelings. Through this private intention you will begin to see ugly and coarse behaviours in others as helpful, and the practice can even become empowering instead of dreadful. The deeper you move into this practice the more you will begin to realize that the terrible feelings you once believed were caused by others originate from you and truly belong to you. Fear, anger, nervousness, dread and that awful fight-or-flight feeling will all slowly be replaced with calm, confidence, coolness, and eventually compassion. The goal of calm and non-response is not to suppress your natural emotions, but to be able to flow with them and even marshal those emotions when needed. For example, anger can be a beautiful and useful tool. The fire of anger can serve you as a tool of survival, as a remover of obstacles, as a dramatic and effective psychological or theatrical punctuation of communication, and as a useful force of destruction when we decidedly need to wreck things in our lives with a controlled implosion. The problem is when anger controls you, instead of you controlling it. Much of this practice is learning to disentangle your emotions from the static charge of the other person’s emotions. It can be very difficult to not be swept away in someone else’s rush of troubled energy. When we feel controlled or influenced in this way we can become resentful, which fuels our dysfunction. We sometimes avoid difficult people, but we often do it because we know we cannot control our emotions in their presence! In this sense we are putting those people in control.The way you put yourself in control around difficult people is by learning how to maintain your objective calm in the midst of their emotional upheaval. Be mindful and don’t let your emotions get out of control! One technique to practice calm in conflict is to imagine a small fountain pool, like a bird bath, in the center of your stomach. Imagine yourself at peace and the waters in your inner-pool are calm and reflecting the world around you clearly. As you become upset, ripples begin appearing on the surface and little drops stream over the edge. The reflection, which represents your understanding, becomes less defined and somewhat distorted. As you grow in anger, fear, dread or nervousness the water begins slopping over the sides onto the floor. Your understanding is completely distorted and the more you try to control it, the more you seem to lose control. When you are facing conflict try to keep the surface of your inner-pool of emotions calm and steady. Your inner-calm is your safe haven in moments of challenge. Look upon the troubled waters of the other person, and simply have understanding – nothing more. In your serenity there is a clarity, strength and correctness that is beyond the petty scuffles of the moment — a greater truth – it is the truth of who you are; beautiful, calm, secure, open, willing and safe. Try to avoid allowing your adversary’s conflict-energy to bump into your energy; remain separate and unentangled. See the moment for what it is – a test and an opportunity to practice being a good communicator and to further refine yourself. Much of life is merely a practice. When you begin looking at each challenge as practice you shift from being a reactive victim of circumstance to a victor in a rehearsal of opportunity. Every small run-through is preparing you for tougher challenges. Start practicing today and you will become stronger and more confident through each moment of challenge!