In a recent work encounter, the one employee that had been there longer than I, frequently laughed(but not joking) “Somebody’s gotta lose and it aint me” That is the culture of this particular environment. I realized how familiar this dynamic is and observed her frequently taking the bait to jump in the ring with the very aggressive owner. And she liked it, hated him but liked the drama and needed to be right. After dealing with my ex and my sister, guided by the wisdom of my program of recovery, I have become deliberate in which conversations I will engage. Anything inviting needless complexity, blaming, denying IS not for me. I often interrupted a rant, to say “What action do you want me to take? I am happy to do as needed.” That almost always worked. But this last one, he wasn’t having it, he was relentless in his need for battle, a win. He wanted a submission. I submit to God, my pets and my children. That is it…oh and in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I gladly submit as called for…but that is never a loss or defeat…never diminishing. Just part of what we do.
After months of failing to wrangle me into the ring, my boss lost it…because in his mind one person must be right and win always. You are always either a winner or a loser…and by me not playing, by his criteria, he could not be certain where he stood. While my experienced should make me expert at this– (sadly claiming my nearly 50 years of practice) I realize this is a technique/dynamic I no longer need to master. Winning feels like losing. Zero-sum game has never been for me. I prefer a third way, a way to be in unity, in sync, sustaining connection via a shared value or purpose. So, I offered to leave and return Monday if it could be different— or not at all if it could not. He informed me, as he did the others who left in the past 2 weeks, if you walk out that door, it is because you are lazy and don’t want to work. I said three times “The way you speak to me is hurtful and makes it difficult to focus on my work” ” I cannot be spoken to in ways that are diminishing and be an efficient worker.” Unwilling to acknowledge my invitation to talk it through, he came at me harder demanding engagement in a way that would force me to fight or defend. I wished him a good weekend and walked out the door. Thank gawd for the last guy who left and modeled for me: Upon hearing “what….you don’t like working??” he responded flatly, “not like this” and out he went. 3 of us in 3 weeks. This is a 4-5 man operation tops. Now two brand new hires and the owner remain. Rather than continuing to try and be heard, I remembered my values. I choose connection over being right. I may be a ninja at deflecting that energy, but it is exhausting, and I can officially think of better ways to spend energy. Additionally- for the type of connection I choose, there is no place for righteous and dehumanizing behavior. I found the words below on this matter as it relates to parenting: by Jitterberry.
This after her young daughter reacted to discomfort by speaking in a way that was not kind, as we are all prone to do. The way she contemplated and responded to the matter speaks volumes to the type of parent, partner, and human I strive to be.
In these moments, it is very easy to lose sight of our intention and to begin thinking that ending a conflict comes from one person asserting their “rightness”; from somebody winning. And well, geez, that better be me hey? And your brain starts sending you all the justification, it starts amping you up to win, it’s cheering you on and completely ignoring the existence of other person.
Because when we start down that path, if we have to acknowledge that for this to occur we must condemn our children to be our adversary then that’s going to really put a damper on our hype. Because if we are right, then our children must be wrong. And if we win, then they must lose. Which hopefully doesn’t actually sound all that appealing.
We have such a resistance to forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t always the act of accepting a physical apology, it is in essence affording somebody grace in their missteps. Which is really what this comes down to; if I react in aggression (passive or active) then I am opposing forgiveness, I am opposing understanding. We see forgiveness as weak, as surrendering; essentially as losing. But how does holding onto your hurt and projecting that back onto somebody else really improve your sense of self, your connection with them, your life?
What if forgiveness, which is an investment in our connection, which is an investment beyond the mistakes to what is happening now, which is an acknowledgement of our shared humanity (we all make mistakes), is actually strength? Surrendering to joy? Everybody “winning”?
So really, perhaps, what we actually want is to get back on the same side so that we can see and hear each other (empathy: we are navigating this together) rather than only ourselves (defence: I need to look out for me).
Sure, objectively, what my daughter said was pretty rude. But subjectively? It’s not that difficult to understand. I’ve been her, we have all been her.
And if somebody wins at the expense of the other person, that is not the cycle ending; that is the end of that battle perhaps but it is an investment in a continual war. For the cycle to actually end, you need to stop fighting. You need to invest in peace.
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