The dishwasher didn’t get run so it’s full of dirty dishes. The trash didn’t get taken out and now we have to smell stinky garbage for a week. The laundry was left in the washer all night and now it smells dank and musty.
Does this happen around your house? What happens next? Around our house, we all start pointing fingers by asking, “Who forgot to run the dishwasher?” “Who didn’t take out the trash?” “Why didn’t the laundry get dried?”
Conflict occurs anytime there’s a gap between what we want (e.g. clean dishes and dry laundry) and what we are experiencing (dirty dishes and dank laundry). That’s life. Have you ever paid attention to what happens next, though?
It’s human nature to want to feel justified when there’s conflict
We want to believe we were right and they were wrong. We believe that somehow identifying the culprit and making sure they know it will solve the problem. Some people look outside themselves for the source. Some people chronically point the finger at themselves, always assuming they are the cause of the problem.
Pointing fingers misses the point altogether. It takes two positions to create a gap. Which city is to blame that New York and LA are 2790 miles apart? OK, New Yorkers, don’t even start with the argument that it all started on the East Coast.
Conflict can’t exist without a gap between a) What you want, and b) What you are experiencing. If I want to live in LA, I can complain about how far away NY is. If I live in NY, I blame LA.
Maybe it’s time to ask different questions
What is my role in creating and perpetuating the gap?
How am I going about getting what I want?
Why am I invested in struggling against others to assign responsibility?
What responsibility am I avoiding by pointing fingers?
What could I do to close the gap?
What could I do so others would feel safe enough to move closer to me?
Have I really examined what I want?
What don’t I know about the situation?
Is there a third way that allows us to struggle together towards a common goal?
What do all these questions have in common? They start with me. They focus on what I have control over, and invite me to take personal responsibility for my end of the gap and what I will do to close it.
Things to ponder
- When there’s a gap between what I want and what I am experiencing, do I point fingers? At who?
- What would change if I took full responsibility for what I wanted?