The latest exhibit? Fighting.
I LOVE a good fight. Two people with passion and (perceived) facts, hair extensions, and high, high heels battling it out until one is still standing . . . okay - fine - a "good" fight is just those first two things DISCUSSING things.
Can you shout? Yep. Can you yell? Sure. Can you make it personally? If you're good at it. Can you convince someone of your position? Nope. Is that going to stop you? Not if you're good at it. Can you ever really "settle" a fight? Yes . . . yes. you. can. The best way? Don't have one.
Here's the thing . . . I have a tendency to attract - shalllllllllllllll we say - "dramatic" people. I like big personalities. I like big brains. I like big pet issues and projects and topics and causes. I like people who are unashamed of who they are and their personas. ALL these things are great at happy hour, dinners, afternoons of complaining about our enemies (those that will NOT follow us back on Twitter (?)), and if you want a posse of support for the days you feel like complaining. NONE of these things are good when you are sitting across the table (or cubicle wall, phone conversation, text message exchange, or e-mail chain) from these friggin' nut jobs (particularly if you are one yourself - like I am (my "other" business cards read Sean C. Amore, Big Personality). In THOSE moments these people are not attractive at all. They are not fun. They are not endearing. They are monsters (my "other, other" business cards read Sean C. Amore, Monster).
SOOOOO this brings me to the point. In the last few months - often through gritted teeth and/or passive aggressive mumbling, I have stopped arguing with people. Stopped taking the bait. Stopped playing the game. Stopped pretending a difference of opinion (that can not change the opinion of one person or the other) is worth the time wasted pushing and pulling against each other.
My shrink is super proud of me. My normal "competitors" on the field of verbal battle are mystified. My heart rate and stress level and balding head are all relieved. My "hind sight" (a perfect 20/20) is wondering what took me so long.
How do I do it? Turns out it is simple (most first graders know these things).
- Acknowledge how the other person feels and put it in terms that are your own to show you really understand vs. are just echoing back to them.
- Admit the fault where you are at fault AND admit the error in confusion that might have the other person feeling you are wrong.
- Apologize - genuinely - when you are/were wrong and when it is the right thing to do (they won't hear it or accept it but it is still there and might eventually land on them)
- Don't take the bait. Just keep restructuring the drama to facts or clarifying statements and questions (it will exhaust the "enemy" and will keep you from getting dramatic yourself. As lots, and lots of questions and let them answer and vent and share things (the nuggets are there) or at least hope they will clarify things so you can better respond.
- Be present only as long as you need - when it gets "dumb" . . . say so. I like the "This is dumb. We are both too busy, too bright, and too otherwise (insert positive adjective here) to waste our time. Let's move on."
- If the other person wants you to linger - do so ONLY as long as you need to to hear them all the way out. Then remind them THIS (not them) is dumb.
- Introduce variables ONLY when needed . . . example - if a friend who you work with starts challenging your professionalism - point out that they don't set a bar of professionalism you need to meet. It won't actually clarify anything and it might enrage them but, again, you have put it out there and it will land eventually . . . you are making their whole argument moot by stating their expectation is not important enough for you to feel challenged to meet it.
- Try to end on good terms. Tell them you want to be better. MEAN IT when you say it. Repeat back some action items (as appropriate - I will no longer have relations with you sister, for instance), set a timeline for meeting those expectations, and ask them if they have any additional concerns to discuss.
- Repeat MANY times that they are important to you. You DO want them to be happy and content. You WILL try to be better. You ARE doing what you can. You SEE their point. You VALUE their opinions (and sisters).
- Make a mental note of what things helped calm them down and what things set them off so you can rush to or avoid those same cues the next time (and there WILL be a next time).