It’s been quite a while since I’ve had to deal with this, but just last week I was on the receiving end of full on verbal attack in a business environment. I was on a conference call with a CEO and his number one. It started out contentious and escalated to toxicity.

My response was to employ several of the Indigenous Principles, not the least of which “The Oral Tradition.” As the heat of the exchange was intensifying I made several attempts to establish a boundary of non-interruption, which didn’t work. The CEO would ask one question and before I had a chance to respond to his question his number one would fire off another. Not that I thought their tactics were premeditated, but it was as though they wanted to keep me on the defensive. In actuality, my sense is that they like to be in control and receive a certain form of emotional comfort from being in a position of dominance.

It’s amazing to me that they have been able to build and run a successful business for more than ten years, but it’s not surprising. It’s not surprising because we are taught in the business world to have complete respect for those higher up in the chain, to never challenge a boss, a client, or a superior and demand their respect. Yet respectful communication is paramount to success.

In my former years I would have been somewhat cow tied and sought to maneuver and negotiate my way through such a conversation. On this day I had no interest in that approach. The Indigenous Principle of “The Oral Tradition,” and the Indigenous way of communicating begins and ends with respect. One person speaks at a time, even if someone is saying something totally outrageous we allow him to say what he has to say and wait for him to finish before we respond. More deeply, we actually listen to him, regardless of how we feel about what he’s saying and take time to formulate our response, versus the common approach in business which is to spend more mental attention formulating a response then to actually listen fully to what is being said. With the Indigenous approach we have a much greater ability to learn from one another, and at a minimum to find common ground.

Armed with this knowing and remembering the Indigenous Principle of the Warrior Spirit I stopped the conversation and said, “We need to have respectful communication. I need you to allow me to finish what I have to say. I feel that this is becoming adversarial and that’s not going to help us accomplish anything.” Also the way I said these words was without raising my voice, without judgment, and with focus on my intention for the conversation, which was to find common ground. The effect was immediate. The interrupting stopped and within just a few minutes we reached a point of understanding and perhaps I earned a small measure of their respect.

By not being judgmental I was employing the principle of “The Way of Love,” by having the courage to speak my peace regardless of the outcome I was employing the principle of “The Warrior Spirit,” by keeping my focus on the intention for the conversation I was employing the principles of “Intentionality,” and most importantly I was embodying the principle of “The Oral Tradition.” I have much gratitude for the teachings of the Indigenous Elders, the example they set, their stories and traditions, and for being able to practice their principles and apply them to the working world.