If you believe conflicts have to end badly, they probably will. I see it differently.
Word Count: 566
Reading Time: Well under 2 minutes
I’m on my way to a quick breakfast between appointments when a neighbor stops to recruit me to the latest community crusade, “We’re going to put up ‘Private Property – Do not Enter’ signs to keep the kayakers out.”
“Uh-huh.” I nod noncommittally. My stomach growls.
“There are so many more small craft coming into the marina than there used to be. I hate it when I look up and some stranger is staring into my bedroom. I don’t want them here.”
“I see it differently,” I say.
“You do?” She looks surprised.
“Yes.” She’s still looking at me, so I explain.
“I think the number of kayakers looking in my windows is the same as always. I think posting rules we can’t enforce won’t help. So I’m OK with the status quo.”
“Huh,” she says. “That’s interesting.” A pause, and then she launches into her fears that the kayakers are casing the houseboats, citing conversations with other neighbors as “proof” that the situation is dangerous and action is needed.
I listen for a bit longer, then politely excuse myself. I feel great. I haven’t harmed our relationship by being disagreeable, I haven’t fled, I haven’t disagreed. I just see it differently. Plus, I’ve got just enough time to eat breakfast.
When I’m on my inner game, it’s effortless and fun to stand in my own space like this. When I’m off my game, it can feel impossible.
We all have our moments of transcendence and grumpiness. Skills work regardless of mood, backstory or the rank of the person in front of us. That’s why there is no need to wait for personal enlightenment. Instead, we can simply steal this sentence: “I see it differently.” I stole it from Harriet Lerner’s latest book Marriage Rules. I’ve been playing with it for a few weeks now, looking for moments when I feel coerced or crowded by someone else’s opinion. Before this helpful sentence, I’d argue, feign agreement, or run like hell. These all left a sticky residue.
In the choice between fight, flight or join, I’m holding out for a better option, one that keeps me connected without erasing me.
These days my growing edge is the refusal to choose between being connected to my fellow humans and expressing myself. I don’t want to persuade or be persuaded, coerce or be coerced. I don’t want to argue or to agree. Although I’m open to being touched, I don’t want to founder on the tsunami of your emotions. I do want to be connected, my authentic self to your authentic self. And I don’t want to visit – I want to live this way. I want that even – especially – in highly coercive environments hostile to authentic connection and self-expression. Of which there are many.
I’m getting real traction from “I see it differently.” Not, “I disagree,” or “You are wrong” or even “I’m right.” It’s more “I see it differently and that’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about reporting accurately from Planet Liz, which is the only ‘truth’ I have access to. It may or may not be valuable to you, and I am offering it without knowing.” I like how sparky this is, and how my boundaries become both gentle and firm.
What’s it like on your planet?