Meg has a mounting list of grievances against the contractor she hired, but she avoids bringing them up because it always just makes it worse.
Stan cringes when his wife announces that they “need to talk.” Even though he rehearses his side of the argument in his head, he gets flustered and draws a blank in the moment.
Every time Frank tries to sort through his disagreements with his business partner, he ends up feeling stupid and wrong.
I am a very big advocate of a power-sharing approach between people when trying to resolve a disagreement or process a difficult situation.
Normally people are engaged in a power struggle, meaning two points of view clash and one prevails.
But when you share power, you seek a common goal, focusing on a result that is mutually beneficial. Ideally, both parties are empowered by pursuing a third alternative.
Unfortunately, this is not easy. It takes time and practice and goes much more smoothly if both people are doing it, which can be difficult to create.
So what I want to focus on is an intermediate step.
This approach applies particularly to the member of some type of partnership (spouse, friend, coworker, etc.) who is the less dominant or energetically aggressive. They are usually more sensitive, conflict-avoidant, and feel in some way that the other person “fights better” than they do, or is better at getting their way.
Therefore, when conflict is imminent, their energy goes into avoiding attack or mapping out how to defend their turf.
There is often the fantasy that if they could just express their side in the right way, using just the right words, the other person would see their point.
This is unlikely because the more dominant partner usually isn’t really open to your point of view. They are focused on winning the argument. Their goal is to make you wrong in order for them to be right. After all, you can’t both be right…
Here’s what I suggest you try instead:
Identify your truth. Not the truth – your truth. Make sure it’s really valid to you and not just an ego position or something you don’t want to face. Once you are really in touch with it, your job is to stand for it, represent it – not to force it on the other person or convince them of anything.
Remember: they can’t make you wrong, because it’s your truth. They can only present a different truth which may seem hard to reconcile with yours. You must shift your focus off who’s right and what the answer or decision is going to be. You must agree to disagree. Just because they want to get their way doesn’t make you wrong.
All you are looking to do initially is to have both sides articulated and heard.
Then you must accept that you do not immediately have an answer, because that is the truth of the moment. Recognize you do not have resolution and then be willing to leave it there for the moment.
It is a much different proposition to simply stand in your truth rather than trying to use it to beat the other person down or keep it from being crushed in an onslaught.
From this point of view, it doesn’t matter if the other person hates, dismisses, or attacks your idea. It only matters how you feel about it.
It’s like saying you shouldn’t like fruitcake. Well if you do, you do, and they can feel about it however they like. You are the only one who gets to determine how you feel.
This doesn’t mean you don’t listen to what they say and how they feel. Maybe when you consider their position, it will authentically affect your truth. But ultimately your highest loyalty must be to honor your truth whatever it turns out to be.
The challenge now is to be willing to live with the tension of a perceived lack of agreement between two truths. This can be very uncomfortable for some people. Avoiding this discomfort is what prevents many people from effectively standing in their truth in the first place.
But if you are willing to face the moment, it can create a space for the answer/solution/compromise to organically occur. This is the beginning of the place from which the Third Way can emerge.