How do you start or restart a pendulum? You give it a hearty push and it goes all the way to the left, and then all the way to the right, and so on, and so on, until it settles in the middle. I use this analogy frequently in my mediation practice, especially when I’m talking to divorcing couples. If my clients are parents, I sometimes ask how they want to introduce their kids to a new romantic partner. Inevitably, I get a look of fear from one spouse, who says “I’m never dating again,” while the other spouse is planning on auditioning for “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette.” I see that as a pendulum push.
Sometimes after a failed romance, our next relationship is with somebody completely opposite of his or her predecessor. (Okay, I confess!) Doing that 180 degree shift is is a pendulum push.
Same observation in other aspects of human behavior (or misbehavior). In politics, It’s the far left versus the far right, yet the majority of people land somewhere in between. I also see that as a pendulum push. Another example is the way some people are handling the pandemic. We’ve all heard of or know those who believe it’s a hoax and those who wear a hazmat suit their own homes. Another pendulum push.
How about the alcoholic who falls off the wagon and goes on a week-long bender? Or the yo-yo dieter? Or the guy who decides to take up running by training for a marathon? All pendulum pushers. I’m sure you can think of many other examples, whether from your own experience or from the lives of others.
The point is, regardless of the direction in which it’s pushed, and regardless of the speed, strength, or velocity, a pendulum is designed to wind up in the middle. Wouldn’t it be easier if we recognized this at the onset of a conflict? Having that advance knowledge, don’t you think we could simply get to the resolution faster?
What I’m describing is a compromise. And what I’m showing with my pendulum metaphor is that nearly every conflict, whether internal or external, can be resolved by compromise. If it’s an inner conflict, sometimes we can talk ourselves into the compromise. If it’s a conflict with someone else, if we understand that the pendulum eventually rests in the middle, then we can arrive at the solution faster by figuring out a reasonable compromise.
And if you consider compromise as a sign of weakness, what if you used another word instead? Negotiation, for example. When you negotiate the best deal possible on the purchase of a new car, are you weak? No. You’re likely to feel proud of your negotiating skills when, in fact, you’ve actually compromised. Both you and the car salesperson pushed the pendulum. And where did it land?
If you’re the type of person who likes to argue, go ahead and push that pendulum. I promise it’ll wind up in the middle.