In life, disagreements come up. Sometimes, something or someone does something that upsets us. That hurts our feelings.
If we stay quiet, we bottle the pain inside and eventually explode (passive aggressive).
This is living a life of inauthenticity and we eventually regret this behavior because of its unfair impact on the receiver of our passive-aggressiveness.
If we speak up, sometimes its a reaction and all our pain comes out and we end up overreacting or putting the other person down past a reasonable limit. We then feel guilt or remorse.
Where is the middle ground? Dirty vs. Fair Fighting
Fighting is OK. Fighting allows disagreements to get resolved. But there is a HUGE difference between dirty fighting and fair fighting.
In both scenarios – we end up not fighting fairly. We end up playing dirty and it doesn’t solve anything and often makes matters worse.
So what how can we resolve differences? What is going on? And how can we fight fairly?
The Blame Game
In every disagreement, it’s easy to blame the other person. I mean, THEY did something to us.
This however, makes us the ultimate victim in life.
But no one wants to admit they are playing the victim. No one wants to see they are complaining about the other person or what THEY are doing or not doing that is affecting our wellbeing and life.
When we are hurt, we just want the pain to go away.
In that moment, no one pauses and asks themselves “hey, am I playing the blame game? Oh yeah! I am, let me just stop.” No.
We are mad, we are angry, we are hurt, and we didn’t deserve any of this.
The Problem with Blaming
The problem is – when we blame the other person – it doesn’t matter how SUBTLE the blame is (example: Honey, I wish you didn’t wait until the last minute to turn in our taxes), the other person can and most likely WILL get defensive.
No one wants to feel accused of anything. They end up explaining, justifying, or ignoring the accusation. Bummer.
Why Blame Feels Good, But Goes No Where
Blaming gets us NO WHERE – except it makes us feel good. Speaking up, makes us feel good. Letting it all out, makes us feel good. But there are costs to blame.
- When we blame others, we put them down. Which causes them to get defensive, stop listening, and stop learning anything from the issue that came up.
- The person may stop communicating (going silent) or they may start getting angry too (going violent). This doesn’t solve the initial problem you were try to solve, it often makes matters worse.
The (Bad) Fruits of Blame
Defensiveness flames the disagreement (escalates it). Your upset causes their upset which causes your upset which causes their upset.
No listening = no learning = the highly likely possibility this disagreement will REPEAT in the future.
No solution = hours of fighting and hurt feelings that will reappear in life. Baggage anyone?
So what can we do?
Obviously WE are not to blame for the problem! So how can we feel good again.
The Contribution Game
If you want to feel good and feel empowered, focus on your contribution to the problem.
In *most* problems or disagreements, YOU play some part. Some role. This is hard to swallow and very difficult to grasp at first.
DISCLAIMER: This ISN’T BLAMING THE VICTIM (which is the worst form of accusation in the world).
People who blame the victim think the person who got mugged at night is to blame or the woman who got raped shouldn’t have worn the dress.
Contribution vs. Blame
Focusing on your contribution isn’t the same as accepting blame. No, looking at contribution isn’t about blame at all because blame requires a judgement from others.
Looking at your contribution is just YOU looking at your role in the problem. It’s your way to own your life, to take ownership of your contribution no matter how small.
What about the other person?
This does NOT mean the other person plays no role when you look at your contribution. You need to look at what percentage you contributed to the problem.
A person who was mugged may take a look that he shouldn’t have been walking alone. But that percentage is MUCH smaller than the person who did the mugging.
Focus on the Solution, NOT the problem
Like I said before – focusing on contribution EMPOWERS us. When we focus on blame, we feel HORRIBLE. We feel victimized. The problem grows.
This is because of the famous axiom:
“what you focus on expands.”
Focusing on the problem, ENLARGES the problem.
It makes you a BIGGER and BIGGER victim.
It ESCALATES your pain, hurt, and anger.
Which escalates the disagreement.
Speak no evil
The ultimate zen of conflict resolution is to “speak no evil”. What do I mean?
Well, I’ll explain – but first take a look at the typical format for arguments and disagreements.
Typical Disagreement Script
Typical disagreements that start with blame follow this script:
- Sharing your feelings (how furious you are).
- Playing the blame game (threatening or putting the other person down).
- Focusing on the problem.
- Go back to #1 and repeat.
This has poor results, as I have pointed out earlier – because the person receiving this will get defensive and you will get more angry (focusing just on the problem).
Not only that, but there is no honest attempt to understand and work together on a solution.
There is an underlying assumption the other person is 100% responsible – which makes you the victim.
A Better Script: Speaking No Evil
A better script I suggest is this:
- Share your feelings (how furious you are).
- Share YOUR contribution to the problem.
- Ask the other person why they did what they did (or didn’t do) — seek to understand.
- Focus on a solution so no further problem comes up like this.
When I say the zen of conflict resolution is to “speak no evil”, I mean follow the script above.
Let all your hurt feelings out, acknowledge your contribution and work towards a solution.
Saying a bad word about the other person IS to blame the other person.
(Teaser: Heck, even thinking bad thoughts about the other person causes blame. We’ll go into that in another article on “hearing no evil”)
What are you thoughts? Does this make sense? I hope this article helped.
If so, please share it with friends and family. Spread the love and empowerment! 🙂