I’m not a fan of conflict, never have been, never really will be. I understand that conflict can create unique opportunities for growth, forging new relationships, finding the rainbow on the other side (read: yadda, yadda, yadda). But frankly, conflict is not comfortable, really, for anyone–especially in the heat of the moment.
I’ve been known to over-react, yes, true that! I’ve raised my voice, thrown things, and generally been a royal you-know-what when pushed to my limits. My reactions have landed me in a heap of trouble at times, even jeopardizing my career at one point. That was the wakeup call! I had to find a new level of patience with the people around me.
Initially, I harkened back to my mother’s regular direction to her eight children: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” We’ve all heard the phrase, but how many people really take it to heart? Misery loves company after all, and commiserating with others who want to support our foul mood is easy. I had to find a new strategy.
Fast forward from the “if you can’t say something nice…” refrain to my life coach training, and the new mantra: “Assume positive intent.” Whoa, what a concept! It’s not an easy one to wrap your head around, is it? What’s even more difficult is living it–every day.
The car that pulled out in front of you in traffic, may be trying to get to the hospital to see a family member. The co-worker who blind-sides you at a meeting, may be having trouble elsewhere, and simply forgot to give you the information you needed before the meeting. The person who “helped” you out by completing a project for you, that you then had to re-do, was just trying to help–really.
I believe that there are very few people in the world who wake up in the morning and say, “I’m going to be an a*!/?@*e today.” So, when a conflict does arise in my world, I do my best to “assume positive intent”. And, when all else fails, I follow my mother’s great advice: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
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