As the start of the New Year lingers, I’m rethinking my approach here at BraveSmartBold as well as my approach to a lot of other things, including my conversations with my children.
In the process of sifting through my relationships with my family, I’m taking a look at BraveSmartBold, thinking, I want to highlight some of the brave, smart, bold writers and creators here on WordPress.
One such creator is David McRaney who started You Are Not So Smart, A Celebration of SelfDelusion. He just recently posted two compelling pieces about communicating.
I’ve been following his blog and listening to his podcasts for a long while, but the latest ones hit home. The car seems to be the only place I talk to my kids anymore, at least for meaningful conversations unless I trap my kids at a restaurant table. If we’re walking or out anywhere, they veer off in another direction or escape my clutches with a bleep or a tap on a device.
Always and for eternity (or what feels like eternity) there is the beloved escape into the smart phone.
It seems, however, that a fight takes place anyway, despite our many distractions or purposeful ignorance of any being or idea outside of the one and only me, the self, the I.
Lately, we fight, not just squabble, over who did this or that, not debate a topic while learning something new or interesting. No, we fight. We fight so rough that if it were physical, we’d need boxing gloves to keep our knuckles from bleeding on impact.
Clashing Over Nothing
For the most part, I speak loudly enough to at least get a point across or make a statement even if it means demanding that the earbuds be removed.
In the car, it can be a little less painful except for the sharp strike to my neck when chopped from the passenger seat, “Well, why’d you say that then?” or “I never said that. Stop starting a fight,” after asking what I had thought was a simple question.
But then, over time, tired of the incessant clash over nothing in particular, I started to question myself. I began to wonder how they got so defensive so much of the time? Was I the one who was defensive or were they already angry from the start? No one wins in these situations, hence my drive to change my approach somehow. I had already learned that I wasn’t going to change them.
That’s when I took to social media. Not so much Facebook or Instagram, but to the legitimate news sites, LinkedIn, and WordPress. When I scrolled to How to Talk to People About Things, I discovered advice about talking to people so that everyone involved can benefit from the dialogue. McRaney’s podcast explores this concept in an interview with Misha Glouberman who teaches negotiation.
Glouberman starts the podcast by talking about questions in detail with the audience, giving them pointers on what type of questions would be most useful. He elaborates on what kind of question to not ask or rather which ones might be “bad” questions. Mainly he points out that questions that leave you with a feeling of pride might not be the best questions.
Now, that’s a short beginning to the podcast, which helps clarify what he means when he promotes the idea of having a conversation that’s beneficial to all involved. I found that introduction to questions interesting because my son loves to ask questions. They used to be the kind that left you not wanting to answer or irritated with having to answer such as, “Would you want to swim with sharks or piranhas?”
You were struggling over a no-win situation, unless you were a tween or teen, or an adult who liked to indulge in self deprecation then you might enjoy the insanity of it.
Now, my son still asks those questions, but they’re worse and slightly antagonistic, “Why do you stick your chin out like that?” And, because my son is the one asking, I either get triggered or feel insecure or both. I then fall into that all-too familiar trap of spiraling into an argument with him. Sometimes, I even start insulting him right back.
So, after a couple years of bouncing between his and my daughter’s manipulative and snarky quips and conversations, I’ve resolved myself to fight the good fight. If we’re going to talk, it better be good.
That’s why when I was looking for a positive way to begin the New Year in relation to all conversations, but in particular with my interactions involving my kids, and I found YANSS 143, I felt a thrill of inspiration and satisfaction. It was quickly followed with a sense of power over what felt so out of control as I continued to listen to the podcast.
Now, the real test was and is the answer to the question: Does it work? Does whatever revelation you had while listening to this master negotiator on McRaney’s podcast actually work? Well, the short answers are: Yes… and no. The long answers are up to you and you and you and me then you again. You sort of have to work through it and figure it out for yourself.
Work Out the Bugs
This morning, my son came out boxing. Gloves off.
I retaliated. Then, I shut it down all down pretty fast.,
We drove in silence for a good 30 minutes. We literally and figuratively had a long way to go. The last 10 minutes of the drive, a crazy woman in a white Fiat started honking at me for no reason and tried to get around me but I couldn’t move from where I was.
I was not in a fighting mood so I was willing to accommodate anyone’s anger at this point, but she would slow downthen speed up. She was in the mood to start a fight. That was clear.
This bizarre cat and mouse chase continued until we reached our destination. My son started laughing like crazy. “She’s still there.” He tried to instigate and tell me how to drive. I repeated, “I really don’t want to fight with a crazy person.”
I even added, “I think I’m going to drive around until we lose her, just in case she’s following us.” He agreed to that part.
The most fascinating part, though, was his reactions to all of it. He was thrilled with her crazy behavior. He was intrigued by my driving skills. I weaved through traffic like an expert, finally losing her in the last few minutes before we arrived.
He became my ally in the process telling me as he turned around several times, “Don’t worry. I’ll let you know if she gets closer,” chuckling between comments.
A Common Enemy
But, I don’t want us to get along only when we have a common enemy. Although that’s the key to bringing the opposing sides together in any storyline out there, it’s not necessarily the only way to handle every conflict you have with any one person. At least, it’s not how I want to deal with my conflicts and conversations.
Even so, the crazy, white Fiat lady, did her job. We were together. Later, however, in the spirit of my quest for a better solution to my ongoing problem, I attempted a conversation with a kick of conflict.
I instigated, “How can you like Donald Trump when you like Robert DeNiro who despises him?”
He casually said, “I don’t know. I just do.”
Wanting to push it further, I said, “That’s not an answer. I mean, you idolize Robert DeNiro and he really despises Trump. Why do you like Trump so much?”
No One Cares About the Outcome
“I don’t know. He’s a Republican. He doesn’t just do what everyone wants. He does his own thing. Not like the Democrats. They make you think everything’s fine when it’s not.”
I reacted in kind, “Democrats don’t think everything’s fine. That’s ridiculous.”
He threw out some statistics that made sense, but I debated the context. He agreed and disagreed. So did I.
The difference was, we accepted each other’s views. We were willing to listen without the need to win or dominate. That way, no one could lose because neither one of us cared much about an outcome. We had nothing to gain from winning or losing. We just listened.
That was the key in this situation. That’s some of what the podcast highlighted. Of course, Glouberman explains how to converse about more complicated situations when there’s more at stake than in a small argument.
What sorts of conversations cause conflict for you? It’s a question that you should explore. You might learn how to create an easier path for yourself when encountering conflict in the coming year.