SPEAK … By the Spirit™ with Erica A. Hawthorne
Resolve to Seek Win-Win Solutions
© 2011 Erica A. Hawthorne
December 2, 2011
If you ask me, I think I have a knack for coming up with rebuttals. When I was young, I’d treat most every “No” my mother doled out as an opportunity to re-think and refute (a “talent” that put me in timeout more often than I care to remember). So it’s no wonder when I got to high school I was immediately drawn to the Debate class and Forensics team. There, my ability to argue a point down to its barest essentials was highly rewarded.
In those settings I learned how an argument was presented; as a resolution: a topic that two sides would debate, one team would be set out to affirm the topic, while the other positioned itself to negate the issue. Teams would relish in finding a fact that would surely put the other team’s argument to rest, or better still, launch a well-placed quote into debate and render another person’s point mute.
Ah! It was the stuff that all great arguments are made of!
While many of us may not have joined a debate team, it is still easy for us to fall into a debate-filled approach when communicating or disagreeing with a loved one. We are prone to hold on to our respective “sides” and defend them at any cost.
When the other person questions our position, we may become defensive and more deeply entrenched in our point of view. We find ourselves locked into a verbal (and emotional) battle of wills, silently fearful that to relinquish even a little bit of our stand would mean undoing our very personal foundation.
We forget, that by the very act of choosing to be in relationship, we are, in fact, on the same “team”.
I once found myself in a full-out argument with someone I was dating over which water filter to buy of all things! I found that my argument over which filter would filter water the best had little to do with deep research or studies that showed why this or that brand was more effective. It, in fact, had everything to do with me believing that somehow my opinion being accepted or negated was tied into my very value and self-importance.
Hearing my significant other at the time tell me that he thought otherwise of my choice was like hearing him say “You don’t know what is best. And since you don’t know what is best, you must be ill-equipped to know anything, thus making you less smart in all things…especially water filters!” Deep down, that’s what I thought, or better still, how I felt.
My self-perception said “When people challenge your ideas or thoughts or feelings, they are negating you!” And that’s when the fight broke out!
It may feel like an initial disagreement has two sides, one person who is for something and the other, completely against it. But it is more valuable to view any disagreement as an opportunity to find the “win”. This does not mean absolute agreement, nor does it mean 50/50 compromise. To begin, it can mean that there is an awareness that the disagreement is that of a difference in thinking and approach and not an attack on our being. It is an issue, not a person with which we have the disagreement.
Second, is the releasing the need that our thought, way, approach has to be right. This calls for a willingness to see that there may be another way to approach the issue all together. If neither person believes this, and is willing to take even a brief moment to consider the alternative (even if it doesn’t end up being the final decision), then we can find ourselves at an impasse.
In Debate class, we are less likely to take rebuttals to heart. We know it is for sport and competition. But in real life, the more passionate about and/or fearful of a situation or circumstance, the less likely we are to be open and a rebuttal can feel like a sharp stab to everything our ego has built up about ourselves.
And yes, this also plays out in non-intimate relationships, but I am focusing on intimate relationships in this moment since these are the spaces where our deep-rooted “stuff” is most likely to passionately surface and play out as an opportunity for healing.
It would not be until many years later that I realized that debates between two individuals could actually become win-win situations. A win-win mindset minimizes the over-emphasis of self (ego) and encourages creative solution-seeking. Both efforts require us to tap into our higher self. It challenges us to relinquish our sometimes unnecessary concern with self-preservation in order to discover ways that we can work in tandem and surprisingly still have our needs, feelings and ideas honored.
That water filter conversation I mentioned was later resolved when we shifted our focus to what we both wanted: filtered water. Then each of us had to temporarily surrender our view of what was “best” to consider other possibilities, which included reading the filtration labels on each box. This is when we discovered a totally new consideration that we could both agree on: how long the filter would last and the cost.
With that new info, we quickly grabbed a filter that eliminated all kinds of gunk we were sure we didn’t want to drink that ended up costing three dollars more than another filter, but lasted two weeks longer which we both agreed was more important to us. Aha!
Not all of our disagreements with loved ones will be as simple or as easily remedied as ours was in Aisle 9 of the grocery, but the practice to arrive at that point of resolution is similar. Just know that the willingness to attempt to seek a win-win approach matched with the belief that it is achievable, is a very positive start.
Resolved: A win-win approach can be achieved in the midst of disagreements in relationships.
There is no need for debate, the answer is up to you. How will you approach your next disagreement?
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