Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution’
Every day I check the internet for news. I’m looking for real news—like the kind of stuff that steers the direction of the world or announces advances in science that will cure some awful condition I might get one day. Instead of the hefty stories I’m looking for, I much too often see headline after headline talking about how some poor sap feels he was mistreated on a plane, in the local coffee shop, or at work. He was asked to leave, he was overcharged, he’s being forced to follow the rules of the contract he signed when he took the job, etc., etc. Gah!
At first I would read the articles in their entirety. Then I started skimming them. Then I just got irritated. When it finally dawned on me that the media outlets reporting such things wouldn’t know about these situations unless someone brought it to their attention, I got really irritated. Let me explain why.
First, you should know that I’m a big proponent of speaking up. I’m not one to sit back and watch bad behavior and not say something. I’ve never been that way so if someone is poking someone else in the eye, I’m fine to tell them to stop no matter how big and scary they look. If someone is cheating on a test and I know about, I believe I have a responsibility to say something to the teacher. If I encounter a troublesome situation with a company, I am the first one to reach out to customer service to get it resolved because I believe that if an organization doesn’t know about such things they can’t fix them. Bottom line—you don’t get to behave badly around me and watch me walk the other day without a word. So, why do I become so irked over these media stories?
To me there’s a difference between calling out bad actors for the benefit of the greater good and tattling on someone with the intention of being unfairly rewarded. And, that’s exactly what I think is happening with the tattletale epidemic. Something didn’t go your way? Alert the media! Without trying to resolve an issue professionally and privately we seem to be immediately heading to social media and then sitting back to wait for the big check to arrive.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really disappointed in this approach. It feels one-sided and selfish and, well, just wrong. It also feels lazy and dishonest. So, because I mentioned earlier that I’m not one to sit back and not say anything, I guess this is my way of publically calling out the tattletales. And, no, the irony is not lost on me.
A few months ago Yahoo Style published an item by Sloane Bradshaw that talked about how letting the little things go in her relationship ended her marriage. The headline caught my eye and, as I began to read, I expected to recognize small warning signs in my own relationship. My goal was to address whatever was contained in the article before the snowball effect took over and our issues were too big to resolve. I didn’t want to end up like Sloane and her husband heading for divorce court (or whatever people in long-term relationships who aren’t legally married head toward). So, I was ready to accept whatever the blog had to offer. Bring on these little things that can end a marriage—I will meet them head on!
But, I didn’t find any little things. Instead, what I found were some pretty big signs that her relationship had been off track for years. Reading along, I couldn’t help but feel for this lady as she described her sadness and disappointment while filling out parenting plans and asset division paperwork. And, yet, I couldn’t stop shaking my head over her view of these so-called small things. She gave a number of examples of how she had endured years of playing second in her husband’s eyes (like the year she turned 40 and he completely ignored her birthday). I get that we are all second to someone because, well, it would be creepy weird for them to put us first all the time. But none of the time? How is that a small thing?
When it comes to little things we could work on, I thought she was going to say that some nights they were too tired to kiss goodnight or that her husband never offered her the last cookie in the package before gobbling it up himself. Maybe she was going to say that he spent just a little too much out in the garage on his projects. Or, that even though she could count at least a dozen times she had asked him not to put the big spoon in the dishwasher slot right in front of the soap dispenser because the spoon stops the dispenser flap from opening all the way and then the entire cycle is ruined because nothing gets clean, he does it anyway. Oh, wait, those are the little things in my relationship.
I know comparing relationships isn’t necessarily a productive activity, but after comparing the small things in her relationship to the small things in my relationship I came to the conclusion that I have a much better relationship than I thought. At least this man who watches too many Barrett Jackson auto auction marathons remembers my birthday and lifts heavy objects. I’ll take it!
I’m lucky that I’ve had so much training and experience in mediating issues between others. It’s impossible to be a part of the mediation community and not learn a thing or two about oneself in the process. So, today I’m going to share, in no particular order of importance, ten things I’ve learned along the way.
1) Gossip is boring. I don’t mind people sharing updates about family or friends with me, but when it turns into a conversation that has too many oohs, ahs, and smirky faces, I’m out. My threshold for listening to someone jabber on about others is low because I have learned that if they talk about other people like that, they probably talk about me like that. No thanks.
2) Everyone cares about something so much that they’ll do crazy stuff to defend it. In the world of mediation those things are called core values, but without going into too much detail about them, I now know that when someone reacts to a small situation in a big way, it’s because something they value is being threatened. And now, rather than jump back at them, I’m curious to find out what that “something” is.
3) I don’t have to like you. I struggled for years trying to find the good in others, feeling guilty for being too critical of some people, and beating myself up for not making more of an effort with difficult folks. Now? I’m good not to like every single person on the face of the planet.
4) I don’t have to fix everything. It’s okay, and I mean okay, for me to let other people work out their own issues on their own timeline. I’ll just be over here focusing on my own life, thank you.
5) Everyone is a mess. I read a quote once that said something like, “everyone has a life and no one gets out of it”, meaning that every one of us experiences sad, bad, and lousy events that mess with us. We all have issues and we’re all trying to mask them, deal with them, or sometimes share them in the most inappropriate ways.
6) I can work things out when I’m ready. It’s okay to lick to my wounds, think about things, vent to my trusted confidants, wait a while, think about things some more, and then resolve issues with others. It doesn’t have to be on anyone else’s timeline if it doesn’t feel right for me.
7) Giving space to others doesn’t mean I’m giving up. If I’m willing to give myself the time and space to think things through, it’s certainly okay for me to do that for others. Everything doesn’t have to happen right now, right here.
8) Sometimes it’s not possible. Mental health issues, addictions, and things greater than all of us really can, and do, get in the way of mending relationships.
9) I truly can be happier walking away. After so many failed attempts to build a relationship that feels authentic and genuine, it’s okay for me to let it go. I mean really let it go. I’ve discovered that the empty feeling I thought would be there is actually a space that gets filled with contentment and peace.
10) I can think whatever nasty thoughts I want. Yes, it’s true, over the years I’ve become much better at editing my critical thoughts about others. I’ve also become much, much better at editing how those thoughts sound when they exit my mouth. But, there are those days when I give myself permission not to edit thoughts. I’ve learned that I can think whatever I want about whomever I want and that doesn’t make me a bad person. In fact, last I checked, it makes me human.
This is just a quick thought for today.
I’ve noticed a pattern during the private meeting portion of the mediations I manage. The intention of this one-on-one is to uncover what’s really at the heart of the matter and to help the person share that issue with the other party in a meaningful way when we’re all back in the room. This confidential conversation starts with me asking a question or two and often results in a ride down a road littered with signs demanding that the other guy change. Of course people should ask for what they want—that’s an important part of resolving conflict—but hurling out demand after demand after demand makes it nearly impossible for two people to get it together.
So, I have found myself asking a simple question: “What would you do if you had to create a solution that didn’t involve change for the other person?” I’ve come to realize that there is truth in the adage that states that in almost every situation you can only change yourself. I’ve also come to realize that the bonus in adopting that philosophy is that when you change yourself you absolutely change the other person.
I’m just sayin’.