I recently had a conversation with a friend about politics. Imagine that! Well, at least it started that way. What it almost turned into was a shouting match. Good thing I’m a peacemaker . . .
Do you know people who raise their voices in order to convince you of something? As though, the more righteous they think they are, the louder they get?
What if you didn’t actually need to convince someone that you’re right?
Here’s a scenario that’s easily relatable. You’re the manager preparing to have a discussion with an employee about his lack of punctuality. It’s pretty clear in your mind that the starting time is 9:00 a.m. Your employee generally drifts in at about 9:10 a.m. and proceeds to amble back to the kitchen to get coffee, chit-chatting along the way. His actual workday, as you’ve noticed on many occasions, doesn’t effectively start until 9:30. So you call him into your office, describe the offensive behavior to him, and suggest that he take a hard look at office policy. He apologizes, promises to rectify his tardiness, and hastily backs out of your office.
Rules are rules, and right is right.
Now let’s look at this scenario another way. The employee’s lack of punctuality and morning productivity remains unchanged, but the conversation between the two of you is entirely different. This time, instead of convincing him that he’s wrong about the rules, you take a different approach. You make the same observation of his morning routine but ask him if there’s something you’re unaware of that’s preventing him from arriving at the office prior to the start of the workday. Maybe he’s a single parent, driving the morning carpool? Or maybe he’s relying on public transportation? Or maybe he recently moved, and the commute is now taking him longer? By asking questions rather than pointing out that you’re right and he’s wrong, you might arrive at a solution that is mutually beneficial. Maybe a later start time or a shorter lunch break? In any event, the employee walks out of your office with a better attitude because you took an extra moment to listen.
Again, rules are rules, and right is right. But in the second scenario, you didn’t need to prove anything to the tardy employee. Instead, you chose to put aside your power in order to have a true, give-and-take conversation with him.
Obviously, not all conflicts are this cut and dried. And not all solutions are this readily attained. In practically every situation, you can choose to put aside your power for the time it takes to have a conversation. You have the ability to ask a few questions and listen to the answers. You may even arrive at a new understanding or a productive solution. In fact, you might even learn something.
Even if you simply agree to disagree, you’ve chosen a path towards peace without the need to prove you’re right. Try it sometime and let me know how it goes.