Fighting the Good Fight

You work hard to make a difference for your family. You go to war each day to earn a buck, but you’re caught in a never-ending cycle of conflict. And worse, it’s everywhere you turn. Even at home. Day in and day out, it’s fight, fight, fight. What are you to do? Run away from it all? Give up, and let yourself be beat down? Or do you meet conflict with conflict?

If you’re like many, you probably wonder why you put yourself through all this. The usual answer is there isn’t any other way. But there is!

You don’t have to live with senseless fighting all the time. And you certainly don’t have to be prepared for attack around every turn, ready to strike at the slightest provocation. Yet that’s the way so many of us go about our business. And worse, it’s the way we deal with our loved ones.

Let’s face it. Sometimes we’re so tightly wound from all life’s arrows that anything even remotely resembling an attack sets us off. It’s like we’ve lost the ability to be civil, even with those we love most. Were we always like this?

As we took responsibility’s heavy weight onto our shoulders, we began to believe that we could only keep it up through sheer force of will. And that meant imposing it upon everyone who crosses our path.

Now, in business we have to be somewhat tactful with those who think otherwise, for through them flow our bread and butter. Still, modern economists have adopted the Japanese view that business is war, the principles of which they teach from A Book of Five Rings by the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. Certainly our courts and negotiating tables are filled with those who take that approach.

Unfortunately, the social restraints that keep us from completely losing it at work don’t necessarily follow us into the home. Emotions run high as we continually push the buttons that inflame those we love, and they in us. It’s like we’re addicted to the conflict, and can’t stop. And in a sense, it’s true. As much as we profess to hate the fighting, we do it all the time. Often reveling in the process, and its impact on others.

So what are we to do?

Any hope of ending the cycle of combat starts with an understanding of why it happens. And that’s not easy. Many factors interact, not the least of which is that we believe things should be a certain way, and feel a need to defend that belief and make it reality.

Think about some recent argument. You asserted your views. The other person did, too. The problem is, both of you saw it differently, and neither was willing to accept the other’s view. So on you went, trying to prove who was right. To make matters worse, you may have even been talking about different things, but you were so preoccupied with presenting your thoughts that you missed an open window of agreement.

Don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one. Most of us are the same way. We’re so caught up in our own thoughts we block any chance another’s can enter. So we’re left to figure out some way for our differing beliefs to coexist.

Coexistence usually means we’ll never see eye-to-eye, but will give in just enough to get our way on those things that really matter. Hopefully we don’t each need to have our way on the same things. This win-win approach is how most experts teach negotiation. Ultimately it is doomed to fail on those issues that matter most. After all, it flies in the face of the underlying