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Listening to Transcend Conflict

by Deborah Isenhour, Marilyn Shannon
March 2004

What will it take to transform our inner struggles and tumultuous encounters into healing relationships? We all know that listening is vital for resolving conflicts. What more then can be said beyond the existing skills of active listening, reflecting, and summarizing? Can there possibly be new ways to listen that haven’t already been tried? Yes! We believe that listening to our human energy holds the key to transcending conflict in a way that actually can transform relationships.

In our previous article entitled “The Energy of Conflict ”, we outlined our new model, Source Mediation™, which compels us to consider realities that challenge current thinking. We discussed how our electromagnetic human energy is created from electrical impulses in our cells and organs. We noted how the medical profession is beginning to listen to the evidence showing up all over the world that indicates people are being healed in ways, locally and non-locally, that medical science cannot explain. We also touched on the three areas of human energy outlined in the model: 1) our emotions, 2) our actions, and 3) our creativity. We discussed “The Energy Audit” and focused on how to move energy into a balance so that we can relate from our “source” or “authentic self”.

In this article, we are focusing on the area of emotional energy and its impact on our ability to deal effectively with conflict. After all, conflict is filled with emotion. As energy, emotions move more rapidly than actions and even faster than thoughts. Research has shown that emotions originate in an intelligent center of neural connections in the heart. Additionally, research has emphasized that this “heart brain” is in communication with the brain in the head to cause our responses. In the 1970’s, physiologists John and Beatrice Lacey of the Fels Research Institute found that the heart did not mechanically respond to signals from the brain, but was selective in its response. Furthermore, they found that the heart actually sent messages back to the brain and the brain listened. In 1976 in his book, “Emotional Intelligence”, Daniel Goleman wrote that success in life is more about managing our emotions than it is about our intellectual capabilities. In additional research from the Institute of Heart Math, Boulder California, it was concluded that intelligence and intuition are heightened when we learn to listen more deeply to our own heart. They demonstrated that when we “listen to” and focus our attention on our hearts, the synchronization between our hearts and brains increases. In fact our bodies were designed to function at optimum capacity when the heart and head are attuned to one another. Therefore, we must learn to listen from a whole body to a whole body. We must listen with our head and heart to the heads and hearts of others.

We all know the difficult path of learning to manage emotions particularly in times of conflict. We are all at different points along that continuum from uncontrolled outbursts to the mode of being in total control. The negative emotions dealing with conflict such as anger, resentment and revenge will cause and maintain high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, actually impairing a person’s ability to listen, think and respond creatively. And, in time, this stress will begin to show up in physical ways in our bodies. In fact, the Heart Math Institute has developed a new method of biofeedback to facilitate the process of emotional management.

By moving to our heart, channels of listening and possibilities open up. The heart is the focal point for managing emotions. Physiologically, the heart creates the largest electrical field, and therefore the largest electromagnetic field of energy, of any other organ in the body, including the brain. Being able to harness that energy and use it as a resource to manage our emotions is the focus of much research. It has been shown that not only does the heart have a significant impact on our own thoughts and behavior but the energy from the heart can impact others directly and indirectly. Research has been done to detect the impact of one person’s heart energy on another person’s energy up to eight feet away. The heart has actually been shown to contain a neural system with intelligence that exerts more control over the brain and our physiology than previously known. Similar to our fight-or-flight response to danger, it’s the lower or limbic portion of our brain that is controlling our negative emotional responses in conflict. It is in the frontal lobes (higher brain) that the higher qualities and aspects of human intelligence and emotions are activated. Through the intelligence and the power of our heart energy the shift from our lower brain to our higher brain responses is activated.

When we are able to listen to and respond from our heart energy, we can begin to communicate in ways necessary for the transformation of relationships. Igniting the heart energy allows new understanding to become available. Opening up to our heart energy helps to soften and balance our emotional states bringing clarity and releasing discord. There must be a partnership between the heart and the head for harmony to exist. The energy that is being used to hold onto a conflict can now be free to fuel healing.

The benefits of listening to your heart and of learning to manage your emotional energy are profound. Not only are our relationships with others transformed but also our own immune systems and hormonal systems are enhanced. Of course, through listening we become aware of our own culture, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, expectations, and judgments. We must heighten our self-awareness to be able to recognize our “same-nesses” and respectfully acknowledge our differences. The Source Mediation™ model transcends all these filters to create unity and togetherness rather than the separateness we feel in conflict. Listening to our energy needs no interpreter. It is a universal language and is by its very essence, non-judgmental and unifying. When we are able to communicate from our “source” we can transcend conflict. Communicating from our “source” or “authentic self” requires listening not only to others but also to our human energy. Understanding is then able to flow and becomes the bridge to forgiveness and reconciliation.


Deborah Isenhour combines extensive construction and business knowledge and experience with outstanding dispute resolution skills and expertise.  After a successful corporate career and having earned an MBA from Duke University, Deborah co-founded Isenhour Enterprises, Inc., a multi-million dollar general contracting business gaining a vast understanding of the inner workings of a construction business.  Deborah is knowledgeable about all phases of the construction process from the architectural and design process to the final punchlist and warranty. 

Furthering her expertise in the field, Deborah attained a broker’s license in 1992 and the GRI (Graduate Realtor Institute) designation in 1993.  She co-founded The Real Estate Firm, Inc., which specializes in commercial property brokerage in the Chapel Hill/ Research Triangle Park, North Carolina area.  Jointly with the Real Estate Firm, Isenhour Enterprises and other investment groups have completed numerous commercial and development projects. 

As personal knowledge base and experience grew, Deborah was being called on to share her knowledge with others in the construction industry.  Deborah then co-founded Guts, Inc., which specializes in providing general business consulting and training for construction-related businesses. 

With a thorough understanding of the conflicts that arise in the construction industry, Deborah became certified as a Mediator by the North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission in 2002 and trained as an arbitrator in 2005.  She now practices mediation in addition to being a business and conflict resolution consultant, facilitator, and trainer.  Deborah is the founding President of the North Carolina Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution and a Council Member of the Dispute Resolution Section of the NC Bar Association.

Marilyn Shannon is an NCDRC Certified Superior Court Mediator, Trainer, Consultant, Coach and Speaker in the field of Communications and Conflict Resolution. Specializing in juvenile, family, and workplace mediations with an emphasis on special education issues, Marilyn has been involved in the business community for the past 25 years. She is best known for her body of work conducting workshops entitled “The Essence of Listening”. Marilyn is an active member of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) and is currently Chair of the Spirituality Section and is a member of the Leadership Council. Marilyn is also involved with Source Education, a mediation and training company specializing in a conflict resolution workshop called “The Energy of Conflict."