We spend a lot of time teaching our kids how to get along. How to share, use their words, take a break when things get hot. I’m wondering, now, looking back, whether we should also be teaching them to fight.
Maybe fight is the wrong word. I mean work through conflict. Particularly the blood-boiling sort.
I see now that one of my greatest failings is an inability to stand firm when very angry. It’s not that I back down, as do the timid. Blurters blurt angrily, they throw wine glasses and storm out of conference rooms. But I’m prone to navigate with reason, moving along at 10mph, 40mph, 60mph, 72 mph, just fine, when suddenly, without warning even to myself, I lose my way in unmanaged fury.
Or tears. Anger undoes me.
That is not a way to win a fight. And it’s certainly not the way to move through conflict and come out the other side with sustained relationships.
Knowing this, I’ve tended in these later years to recuse myself, if I can use the judicial word, from hostile or tense situations. Take a past job, for example, where one of my co-workers loved to provoke. He lived for the fight; he targeted me. After a few blowups, I started to back away. I backed away and backed away. I put my team out in front of me, since he for the most part treated them differently.
I backed into my office, but the conflict followed me there and eventually right out the door.
Oh I am in no way advocating self-indulgent abandonment of reason and civility. I find the legions of Silicon Valley executives known for screaming ridiculous. It’s unnecessary and often unproductive. But I wish I’d learned and practiced calm anger. I wish, in many circumstances, not just at work, that I could stand quiet and anchored in the midst of turmoil.
Or, since one must move, sail forward, despite what feels like floods of fire both in my heart and rising somewhere over there.
What you avoid you rarely resolve. I wonder if life will be long enough to learn all the lessons.
Have a wonderful weekend.