As a young adult, I was not one to shy away from an argument. I refused to be yelled at without expressing my point of view at equal volume and intensity. I refused to be a woman who was spoken down to. I took pride in this. I was also a master of the silent treatment, an extremely effective* approach to conflict resolution that many of you may also master in. On special occasions, I may even add in a dirty, demeaning look for good measure.
Additionally, I have always been blessed with feeling emotions very strongly. I rarely feel something only half-way. While the above may not sound like a winning combination to you, I was blissfully unaware about my poor conflict resolution skills. This was not something regularly modeled for me while growing up, and I have to be honest that I never really expected there to be resolutions to most issues. Argue, then ignore the issue, sometimes pepper in an apology. Repeat as needed. Significant resolutions were rare.
This should in no way imply anything negative about my upbringing. I had a pretty amazing childhood. My parents moved for me to try to make sure I had an environment that would allow me to flourish. But roses have thorns, right? I seriously doubt that my family was/is alone in this, so please leave your judgements at the door.
Now, back to me and my shortcomings.
A temper, sarcasm, and a need to be ‘right’ were things that Brandon was lucky enough to become acquainted with after meeting me in pharmacy school. Early in our relationship, I would get mad about a minor issue and then pull the silent treatment. Sometimes it was just to prove how right I was. Sometimes it was in Brandon’s best interest that I kept my mouth shut.
I have had a temper long enough to know that things said in anger (especially when seeing RED) are usually things you regret having said. You cannot take back the pain you caused or right that wrong quickly. So I would clam up, go sit on the deck, and calm down. Then re-enter with a smile, wanting to act as though nothing negative had occurred prior to my disappearance act.
Brandon did not appreciate my tricks. He wanted to discuss what had happened, so it wouldn’t happen again. I thought this was utterly ridiculous. DISCUSS why I was upset?! Why would we do that? Then I would get angry again. It was a whole thing. Thank God Brandon was/is such a patient man. He kept trying. I would get mad, then talk, then cry, then accept it, then work out the issue. This was pretty consistent for at least a year. Great memories, right B? 😉
Do we still disagree at times? Yes. Does he still bug me at times? YES. Do we call each other names or yell at each other? No. Do I still walk away when I’m SUPER mad? Definitely. Otherwise there would definitely be yelling and name-calling. I still know it’s better to shut my trap before speaking when my temper is flaring. But we understand each other now.
After anger ensues, we try to fix the problem. Not because it’s easy or fun, but because hopefully then we can prevent it from occurring again.
Additionally, there are now little humans watching us to see how this all plays out. They’re learning how to interact with their friends and future spouses by watching how we handle disagreements.
I feel like I’m not alone in my late learning of how to discuss things rationally and (somewhat) calmly. Watching our government representatives/officials spit insults back and forth is so frustrating to me. Insults do nothing but further deepen the divide. Insults are hurtful and lazy. I wish we could all remember that you do not win an argument by hurting the other person more. That just proves that you’re better at being an arse.** We can do better than that.
Even if you disagree with someone on a hugely hot button issue, going into that discussion calmly and respectfully can lead to a much better understanding on both sides. I do not like Donald Trump. Whenever I see him on TV or hear someone utter his name, I tense. I do NOT get it. (Half of you probably want to stop reading now, but stay with me.) But my word for the year is LISTEN. I will try to listen and understand your point of view, as long as insults are not the foundation of your argument. I have always tried to be opened minded, but I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to something I feel passionately about. Unfortunately, big issues are unlikely to disappear even if they are ignored or covered up.
Today, I ask you to do the same. Be willing to have some difficult conversations. Work on resolving conflicts. With your family, friends, and the stranger in the street. Even if you don’t agree with them, maybe especially if you don’t agree with them. Listen. You might just learn something. It’s so easy to draw a line in the sand when we forget that the other person is a beautiful mess, too. They have a story and a reason for their actions, even if we do not understand it. Listen. Discuss. Dis-engage if needed. Then try again.
Is this easy? No. I have been working on this for years and am still a work-in-progress. There are still conversations that are extremely difficult for me. Conversations that I have avoided and am still scared to participate in. But I also know that when I have implemented these skills, my relationships have improved. With not only husband, but with other people as well. So let’s all try to take a deep breath and calmly discuss our points-of-view. Take some time. Consider the other side. And perhaps we can find the middle ground. Perhaps in a few years, we can get even closer to an agreement. It certainly won’t happen overnight, but shouldn’t we try?
Thanks for reading!
*I am fluent in sarcasm. This is an example of that well-honed skill.
**Sometimes I like to speak with a British accent. I’m not sure why.