My family of origin was somewhat of a battle ground more times than I care to remember. An atmosphere like that can make one really good at survival skills such as being able to defend your own position or opinion and ensure the other party believed you to be right or at least valid. Perhaps in a dysfunctional family, these are skills worth acquiring. But the unfortunate fact is that we all carry habits from childhood forward whether or not they are useful for the rest of our lives. Sometimes it can take a lifetime to unlearn strategies that have proven useful or indeed vital in the past. But, sometimes it just takes yielding to the words of a wise friend.
While watching one of my friends deal with an interpersonal conflict, I stood on the sidelines and observed her reactions. In my opinion, the situation would have caused anyone to be insulted, defensive and perhaps even a little combative. Not this fine woman. She remained silent, responded with kindness and used minimal energy in the face of provocation. Her voice was even and she was economical with her words and body language.
She confided in me later that she was somewhat confused by the other person’s interactions with her, but there was no need to do anything and probably there was nothing to be done. “What?” I thought. “How could that be? She was right and should have stood up for herself. Is there ever a time when there is nothing to be done?”
I offered my two cents worth and then carefully listened to her next words. She said, “Sometimes it is best to just wear beige and sit in the back.” Wow!! That gave me something to think about.
Wear beige and sit in the back? Hmmm. You mean just stay low-keyed, benign and don’t add fuel to a fire? You mean allow neutrality to be your posture because you are not interested in converting another’s opinion or striving to be right? Wow!! Wear beige and sit in the back, huh? I was so impressed, I asked her if I could blog about this.
However, a concept like this was so new to me, it took me days to process it and come to see the beauty, wisdom and amazingly powerful value of such a choice. Now I am not saying that I should try to be something or someone I am not. And no doubt, it goes without saying that being passive is not a good idea in an abusive situation. But I believe most interpersonal conflicts do not come under the heading of abusive.
The blessing is in the fact that I have a choice in most conflicts. It is my choice to make by tapping into the wisdom of another and allowing intuition to guide me as to when it is better to do or say nothing and let another think what they will. I not only spent time reflecting on this concept but asking myself why I never considered this form of reaction or lack of reaction in some of my own interpersonal conflicts.
First of all, I reasoned, I never sit in the back of the room because then I cannot see what is going on (a challenge for those of us 5 feet tall and under, no?). So now the question is, “Is it ALWAYS necessary to see what is going on and try to grasp an understanding of every current culture or situation?” Probably not.
Second, I looked in my closet and found I own not one beige piece of clothing. Zero, nada, nothing. That in and of itself is not necessarily bad. Just never thought it suited my style, although I don’t think my wardrobe is flashy or garish. So now the question is, “Is this a good time to mentally go shopping?” Probably so.
I too am facing a tough interpersonal conflict in my world right now. I have said my peace, tried to convince another of the soundness of my position, and felt entitled to recognition that I am valid. That has to be enough, I think. Whether or not I am right is unimportant. And whether or not I am valid in this person’s opinion is becoming less important daily.
So, if you will excuse me for a while, I am on my way to change clothes and go to the back of the room. And I am finding that I look fine in beige and do not need to have a full view of the current situation. Ah, deep breath now, peace –that’s better. Yes, that’s better.
Copyright June 2012
Lakewood, CO 80401
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“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page
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