The Weekly Dream: Fight or Flight
“The better part of valor is discretion”
-Falstaff, Henry IV, Part I
“Sometimes, when you win, you really lose. And when you lose, you really win. And othertimes you tie.”
-Rosie Perez in White Men Can’t Jump
In college, my friend Nicole had the reputation as a relationship guru. If anyone had a problem with their significant other, she would be the one everyone ended up pouring their hearts out to. Besides being a good listener, Nicole gave great advice. One of her pieces of sagely wisdom was “Pick Your Battles”. She said it often enough where it became eternally etched in my social memory. While this is an excellent piece of well-worn advice, the question becomes: How does one know when to engage in battle? How do you properly access cost/benefit?
In our society, direct confrontation and conflict is frowned upon. Manners, etiquette and other social protocol obstruct what is most important. We become worried with how we will be perceived, than speaking our mind and telling the truth. The result is a society teeming with passive aggressive behavior. The workplace is a perfect example. Everyone has that co-worker they cannot stand. They might be lazy, moody or just plain irritating. And you want so bad to tell them about themselves, but what happens most of the time? People hold it in. And it festers, until something snaps and people go to the extremes. Now that person has you looking look like the crazy person, the bad guy. If it had just been dealt with it when it came up, maybe it would have handled it better.
What it comes down to is that there is a right and a wrong way to handle things. Society ill-equips us to handle conflict or tension. We grow up believing that it is negative. They also do not teach us the difference between being assertive and aggressive. We often must learn the hard way, but the sad part of it all, is that there are people who never learn.
It is essential that we learn to pick our battles. We cannot expect someone else to assert our rights and speak up for us. This requires an assessment of various factors: cost (time, resources), after effects (long-term and short-term), and objectives. We need to decide what addressing this conflict means to us. Is it really a big deal? Is it an annoyance or a serious issue? If it is an annoyance, try to deal with it on your own, and if that does not work, then find an effective means to communicate it. My rule of thumb for picking my battles is to assess where it affects me on my hierarchy of values. If it touches my principles, I cannot let it slide. You have to draw the line in the sand somewhere. Next, if I do let the issue slide, and it bothers me the next day, then I have to speak up also. Following this rule lets me know when something outside has disturbed something on the inside.
Once you decide to address the situation, you need to think about the approach. This is effected by the environment and the nature of opponent/object. Sometimes, getting emotional is not the best way to handle your frustration. Other times, showing a little heat is necessary. You have to know who and what you are dealing with and the constraints on every situation and what you want from all of this. A good example is relationships. Sometimes, your significant other is dead wrong about something, but you let them have their way anyway to keep the peace. Every potential battle is not worth fighting or commenting on. But if you do let it go, let it go for good.
Finally, you must prepare yourself, mentally, physically and spiritually. What if things do not go the way you plan? Can you deal with possibly being criticized, rejected or hurt in retaliation? And it comes down to what is it really worth.
Who begins a work and counteth not the cost.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Learn to deal with conflict effectively and constructively. Through struggle, life is made beautiful.
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: What is Worth Fighting for?