Have you ever found yourself in an argument and wondered how you got there? What started out as a conversation escalated into an emotionally-charged exchange leaving you frustrated and angry?
Three of us planned a weeklong excursion. All of us were experienced travelers and agreed that while we would do things together we were also capable of doing things independently. What a relief! No need to agree on what museums to see and whether to get up at dawn or stay up all night!
Of course, given our independence, we all had our peculiarities. We were each authorities in a number of areas and had become used to “calling the shots”.
I had a close relationship with each of the other two, but while they were warm acquaintances; they hadn’t known each other well or for long, and knowing them both well, I could detect hints of irritation as the week progressed.
By our last night, in spite of having had a wonderful time, patience was frayed.
Over dinner, what started out as intelligent conversation about a political issue degenerated into an unpleasant, pointless argument. Each of them used tactics that enraged the other. I watched as two very smart people acted like children. The debate was never going to be settled, they had widely divergent opinions, neither seemed curious about the other’s ideas, but they were determined to prove that the other was – you pick the adjective – stupid, short-sighted, naïve, cynical etc…
Why were they doing this?
What did they hope to accomplish?
As I observed these two caring intelligent people go at it, I realized they weren’t fighting about politics. They were having a knockdown drag-out about all the irritations and perceived slights of the past week.
One person had been anxious and irritable when time commitments were not established well in advance and adhered to. The other person liked to leave many decisions as open-ended as possible for as long as possible and felt anxious about limiting options. One person felt at ease knowing there was structure, the other felt at ease knowing there was flexibility. One might define the other as rigid. One might define the other as undisciplined or indecisive. What each needed to feel at ease was in sharp contrast and incompatible with what the other needed.
And they, like most of us, didn’t have the language to talk about what made them comfortable and to explore how they could each get their needs met.
As I sat there trying to enjoy my last meal I saw how often we waste time fighting over something that doesn’t matter because we are avoiding something that does matter.
I also realized this:
Feeling feisty isn’t always bad, if you know what you are really fighting about. It can be an open portal to self-discovery (and more Yippee in your life!) here’s how:
The next time you are raring for a fight, ask yourself
- Why is it that what’s happening is irritating me?
- What do I truly need from this situation? – Recognition, appreciation, validation, predictability, apology, justification?
- What do I imagine the other person truly wants from this situation?
- What are some options for giving the other person part of what they want?
- What is my fear if I give them what they want?
- What would be the consequence?
- Can I live with that and still get what I truly need?
If you’re going to fight, make sure you know what it’s REALLY about.
Let me know what you discover!
Until next Tuesday. YIPPEE!