Ever walk into someone’s house when they’ve just had a family fight?
The atmosphere is charged, the kids are hiding in their rooms, the dog is whimpering in the corner and no one is making eye contact with each other. Careful what you say or BOOM! If it’s not an explosion it will be the long freeze session where nobody speaks for days.
We all walk on eggshells because of conflict sooner or later. Whenever two people are present the possibility of conflict exists, it’s only a matter of time whether in the home, on the job site, in the office or in a classroom. Being from Canada I realize we have ridiculous decorum around tough issues that easily converts into eggshells and off-limits conversations.
“Just don’t bring up ______ around her!”
In your family of origin, how was conflict dealt with? This will tell you how you tend to deal with it now. I’m not saying you’ll handle it the same way your mom did but if you’d say you do, or do the exact opposite it wouldn’t surprise me. Why? We are all products of our environment.
It’s just that it is incredibly hard to work through conflict to find solutions when you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around people. There are a few reasons why this happens…
If I’m insecure I’ll naturally walk on eggshells around confident people. I will tend to question their motives or think they are arrogant if they make an honest comment about one of their strengths, for instance. This might be the most normal thing in the world to them but I will squint my eyes and want to believe the worst because of something inside of ME.
A very candid person may feel like they’re walking on eggshells around emotionally sensitive people. I myself am quite candid and confident and have no problem dishing it out when playing sports because it’s all a fun game to me. We play soccer with a bunch of Afghanis who are all related to each other and say funny things and poke fun amongst themselves when they make mistakes on the pitch. I fit in well because my family was like that too; always sarcastic but only with a smile; never to pick on someone’s actual weaknesses but to poke a little fun when they’re talking smack and then get scored on.
I’m uneasy around people who look like they’re going to start crying whenever I say anything. Careful! They might take it the wrong way! Even when I’m not being mean their own hyper sensitivity takes it that way.
Sometimes I’m not the one who spreads the eggshells, it’s YOU.
People do this for different reasons… Control being the most common. Whether or not they realize it, it is a pattern or habit based on selfish gain or protection.
I guess you knew this was coming if you know me at all, but I rarely talk about THEM. I talk about ME. And YOU. So flip it.
When I spread eggshells for you to walk on it is to gain a measure of control, it is not because I’m being decent or honourable I’m actually doing it for ME.
STUFF WE DON’T KNOW.
When you know something I don’t it puts space between us and we both feel it. If I need information or education from you it will be natural for me to sense my lack of knowledge and maybe natural for you to be aware of it as well. We can dance around what I don’t know for awhile because of either side of this equation but it’s not nearly as productive as a straightforward and candid conversation.
I say to my Production Team at Venue “So explain it to me like I’m seven!” Of course they know more than I know about technology, but oh do they squirm when they have to talk to humans instead of computers! Then they need me! They can insist I should be as knowledgeable about the technology I own as they are, but that’s not how it works. If I have enough money I can purchase all sorts of things I don’t know how to use properly, but the space between us is definitely felt. Eggshells.
Paul the Apostle tells us that “Love is not irritable or touchy” in 1 Corinthians 13 (Living Bible).
If love and acceptance is the foundation for walking through conflict together, I can’t be that touchy. I’ve mentioned before that I make two very important (and maybe naive) assumptions before I walk into a conflict with you. I assume that I love you and I assume that you love me and that we both still will after this awkward conversation. “But what if not everyone does? What if they kick their chair back and leave?” Valid question. The truth is that some people will but if I’m going to give it my best shot I just have to believe the best about you no matter what you decide to do!
There are three parallel stories in every conflict anyways. Yours, mine and the REAL story. No matter how I shake the conflict tree, the real story will be closer to you than I want it to be. Why? Because I’m thinking about myself and want to be right! I also make an underlying assumption that how I see the world is the only way to see it.
Let’s mature this thought a little…
Rather than parallel stories let’s look at why conflict happens in the first place. I used to think that getting married would be like moving in with a buddy from high school? “What do you want to watch?” “Football?” “Ok”. Yayyyy, nothing to fight about!
I was attracted to Erin because we saw many things from a similar angle but also because she was good at things I’m not. That’s attractive. Opposites attract. But those opposites are the things we argue about now. The funny thing is, we will never agree about some things! That has taken a little getting used to…
On any team you are in (from family to work to school to sports to friends) there are different viewpoints and personalities, all with their native strengths and weaknesses. We make a fatal assumption to the best solutions when we think the sun rises and sets with the only way I would approach the project (or problem, or person).
Remember the Death Star from Star Wars? Multiple lasers would fire down channels at different angles to meet in the middle and shoot a huge beam straight out and into the planet chosen for destruction.
This concept is the value inherent in people-conflict!
Out of the mess and blending of listening flexibility, we take the different viewpoints and dissect them, leaving the weaknesses of each behind and blending the strengths together to fire a solid unified effort that every individual has bought into at the issue itself. I’m absolutely convinced that some issues are so complex they require this type of smart community to figure them out.
The trouble is I have to admit and leave my own weaknesses behind. It makes me rely on others when I would rather rely on myself.
Why do purebred dogs suffer ailments that cross breeds don’t? Ear infections and shorter life spans? Breed a dog only for looks and the health may not be as resilient as in a mutt!
The Hybrid is often stronger than either of it’s purebred parents.
The Hybrid is the solution that comes to solve the most difficult of issues but can only happen by walking through conflict with other people!
When I put my fingers in my ears I’ll get a hearing infection that leaves me alone with the problem and my own thoughts, which won’t be enough….