In watching family relationships and business interactions for some decades I’ve developed a theory….
most people lose before they even enter conflict.
Maybe this is you?
So what if we didn’t automatically translate the word conflict into pain?
I’m not a guy who has pets.
I don’t understand the concept of a free-loading, arrogant, playful being who serves no other purpose than eating food I provide and bringing ridiculous happiness into the lives of my wife and children.
Now you can’t really call me a monster because I basically did it for you, but I have good reasons for holding out on the pet-thing. My wife knows why and I finally had to leverage my political genius by telling my third girl Katie (as I was getting hammered ten times a day by the females in my house asking/begging/crying for a dog).
Katie cannot be distracted by the usual parental practices because she’s too smart for that. She came into my man cave one day and said “Dad, are we ever going to move to a different place?”. This eight year old goes deep and I was a tiny bit concerned if there was anxiety attached to her question? Turns out she found her swimming lessons punch card on the floor of her room (where everything else is), held it in her hand and asked herself “If we moved to a different town with a different pool would this lessons card mean anything?”
Neela has never had a thought like that.
So I made my move and told Katie why I didn’t want a dog. She came up to me a couple of weeks ago and said “Dad, if you get me a dog I promise I’ll make mom keep the rules for the dog!”
I said “Katie, nobody could make your mom keep the rules for the dog! She thinks dogs are people.”
Truce for now.
Now before you judge me you should know that we’ve had a dog (a great dog) who was a little spoiled by mom who didn’t realize that I had certain boundaries that stopped short of the dog being treated like an incarnate diety who could do no wrong and was allowed anything she could think of. Erin said to me one day “You know, having a puppy wasn’t so tough!” I responded “That’s because I did all the work for your dog! I fed her, cleaned up after her, taught her how to walk on a leash, trained her. All you taught her to do was bark when you said “Bad Guys!””
This is still a tender subject for me. Conflict.
I would totally have fainting goats though! What a way to relieve stress after a long day dealing with people problems. I could walk home from the office past my goat pen, rattle the gate and holler something and then watch them keel over. Two minutes later they’re up and about and back to normal. Ohhh the feeling of power! How has nature not weeded these guys out yet? What a terrible default mechanism to stress and conflict!
We react this way to conflict sometimes. We lose before we even start the game.
Why does every conflict surprise us so much? Seriously, how can we be totally shocked every single time conflict happens with people?
What if we viewed conflict as unavoidable instead?
In my message CONFLICT this week I related some interesting stories of how Paul the Apostle handled different types of people. Some of them he brought the hammer down on while others he came alongside and partnered with them during very touchy conversations and huge “asks” that he needed to make.
But what really fascinates me is that he must have assumed that conflict was just another part of his week?
In Canada we spend most of our time trying to avoid it altogether. The obsessing about and fortifying of our opinions, our side of the story, blowing things out of proportion constantly and making gigantic monsters out of mice is not working for us at all, but we keep doing it.
Paul walks in through the front door and starts talking. He assumes it can’t be avoided so why waste crucial energy trying? He tries to speak a language the other person could actually hear and yet is very straightforward in bringing up excruciating subjects and walking people through intense pain towards solutions.
We all have conversations that need to happen today. When we put them off we normally find that our personal behavioural tendency will come out: some of us faint like goats and never deal with issues until an explosion happens and relationships break forever while some of us enjoy a good scrap and fight it out!
I’m not really offering solutions today but I think I’ll end it with this:
If we would take a minute to sit down and think about our default when the thought of conflict comes up, maybe we would realize our assumption makes us losers before we’re even in the game….
But what if we didn’t automatically translate the word conflict into pain?
I decided a long time ago that if I started hating conflict before it even happened as a husband, father, pastor and leader I could kiss the rest of my fulfilled existence goodbye.