Your first move: “Backstep” with a centered “Yes”

In Verbal Aikido our centered place or “Inner Smile” concerns a type of self-knowledge and confidence enabling us to avoid entering into a conflict. By far the most important of the 3 steps, our Inner Smile is a challenging state to maintain. However, when well-developed, it can eliminate the need for the other two steps entirely.

Here are some basics to understand centering better:

  • Losing one’s center is common. Consciously returning to it takes practice.
  • We may perceive it when we sense a space between stimulus and response, where our energy can shift as we choose how to respond to an attack.
  • We often perceive this space retrospectively, thinking “I could/should have said/done x”.
  • We can tell when we have lost our center through a sensation of tension in a specific area our body.
  • Focusing on returning to our center brings us inevitably closer to it.
  • Using a brief silence, we can accentuate our center or Inner Smile.
  • In a potential conflict it is often counter-productive to let it develop into an “outer smile”. It may easily appear as mockery or a counter-attack.
  • Developing this skill is an open-ended learning path about one’s self.

Backstep is essentially a Posture 1 move.

Practicable: when you feel destabilized or overwhelmed by emotion
Effect: Creates space to recenter
Use: The practitioner can raise one hand to chin level, slightly oriented to the side (half-namaste). This movement can be accompanied by phrases such as “Let me think…”, “One moment…”, “Wait. Let me digest this…”, or by slowly repeating the words heard in a measured tone. If the exchange takes place by telephone, we can say “Let me put you on hold…”.
If necessary, and if the circumstances allow it, we could even say “I’m going to need just a moment, I’ll be right back”, withdrawing from the place in order to recenter. Essentially: preserve yourself with the intention of returning to the exchange.

You practice using a Backstep with a simple “Yes” when someone challenges you aggressively with “Really?!” or “Seriously?!”, etc.

Your first move: “Backstep” with a centered “Yes”