When I shut my mouth and I walk away, it doesn’t mean that you’ve won, it simply means you’re not worth my time anymore.

When I shut my mouth and I walk away, it doesn’t mean that you’ve won, it simply means you’re not worth my time anymore.

There’s so many amazing things to do in life, arguing strikes me as one of the single greatest wastes of breath.

Every reasonable conflict deserves ample opportunity for constructive exploration so that a mutually positive outcome is achievable. This requires both parties to come to the table with mutual respect and a genuine desire to achieve a new outcome that is acceptable to both. How difficult is that? At the outset, it appears so simple as well as obvious. Why then is it so problematic in specific relationships? What perpetuates the continuous need to waste valuable time on a non-productive discourse? On some levels, I think a lot of people find comfort in a continuous state of this type of internal friction. Perhaps it has something to do with their upbringing and their primal relationships to parents and siblings.

Last week, I was musing about how men are from Mars and we want to fix things, whereas in many cases a person is just seeking validation and comfort from whatever might be troubling them.  I would assume that every single one of us have found ourselves in one or more relationships (personal or professional) that continually breed friction where no friction is required or desired.

How then are we best able to disarm the conflict quickly so that we might be more capable of getting to an intelligent resolution and thereby bring the conflict to close?

A couple of the choices that I might suggest have served me well under specific circumstances. That said, there are plenty of circumstances in which there are no solutions and no useful life hacks to enable you to solve what would appear to be such a small issue.

The best solution that I might offer is to express to the other party that you would like to see this conflict dissolve and you are willing to listen quietly and politely without interruption until they have had full opportunity to express themselves and share their perspective on aspects of your current circumstances with them that are causing this conflict.  When they have had full opportunity to express everything that is pent up inside, it is up to the quiet party to repeat back the majority points that the first party had expressed as a form of validating that we have actually heard what they were saying. The necessity to repeat back could not be more critical as the next step, because if you skip this step and you go straight into your response, you are leaving the other party with ample cause to believe that perhaps you still don’t understand what they are saying. Once you have validated that you hear them loud and clear, the art of solving a problem stems from tact, diplomacy and a genuine desire in your heart to bring this to closure. The tact and diplomacy are your tools whereas the genuine desire can be felt by the other party in your choice of what is said and what your approach might be to facilitating closure to the discomfort that both parties are feeling at that moment.

I always let the other party start the discussion by sharing their grievances with me so that I am clear as to what we are really talking about. Many times, an argument happens at surface level, but the grievance is much deeper. If I presume that there is a deeper issue, but it has not been fully expressed, then I am most likely to start my side of the response by asking a few thought-provoking questions that are designed to enable the other party to get the deeper issue to the surface so that both sides have opportunity to be clear about what we are really talking about.

Resolving a conflict with ambiguity in the foreground never works. It might put a temporary Band-Aid on the problem but it never creates a lasting solution.

Finally, when it is my turn to respond after repeating back to them what they just shared so that we are both clear that I have genuinely understood their grievance, I am extra cautious about everything I choose to say at this moment of the discussion. This starts with the construction of every sentence that will come out of my mouth.

The delicate art of communication is critical at this juncture. I avoid all direct accusation and unquestionably avoid all possible conflict and clearly all insult in my response. I will phrase my feelings by starting off sentences with non-confrontational sentence construction such as, “is it possible that… or “ have you considered that“ or “ when this happens between us, it leaves me feeling…” The choice of how we respond is directly proportional to our likelihood of bringing this conflict to closure. And as soon as we give them any form of rebuttal, they are already starting to tune us out and formulate their own defensive and aggressive response. In contrast, the opportunity for you to stimulate any form of conscious consideration of your point of view works considerably in your favor so that they might feel some degree of empathy instead of going into defensive mindset. In a well-constructed conflict resolution, the other party will listen quietly and facilitate your full response without interruption and then take a brief second to repeat back what they have heard you just communicate. In their response back to you you have opportunity to understand whether or not you are truly being heard and understood. If both parties are behaving civilly, this is just the first step in getting to neutral territory where the problem is resolved. The second step requires both parties who have listened fairly to one another to try and address each other’s grievances in order that a new higher ground of commonality is achieved.

The second choice of how to resolve conflict is to really ask yourself whether or not this is a hill you want to die on. Life is so short and conflicts are so plentiful, some of them are better left in the rearview mirror. If we work at it, we can find disagreements with everyone, and conversely if we work at it we can find agreements with everyone. There are people that we work with or people that we love that have certain qualities which are likely to be there for a lifetime. We might discuss it, but these qualities are so ingrained in their personality as to never disappear. In these cases, we might hope or expect some grand life change but if it is a dealbreaker, we need to come to terms that this is where things stand.

Some relationships find a certain degree of conflict comforting in some strange way and both parties continue to gravitate back to that communication dynamic. There are many reasons for this, none of which I will explore in this musing.

All of this leads me back to what I said at the top of this musing in the aphorism… which is that at a certain point in time, it is considerably easier to just silently walk away and let it go completely. Why would you waste a large portion of your life and needless conflict on trivialities? It will not bear any fruit and will only leave frustration and disappointment and it’s wake. 

Happy Tuesday!

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Written by Brian Weiner
When I was 5 years old, I discovered that the lemon tree in the backyard + dixie cups + water and sugar and I was in business. I have been hooked on that ever since. In 1979, I borrowed $14,000 to create a brand new product... photographic greeting cards with no text on the inside, called Paradise Photography. That was the start of The Illusion Factory. Since then, The Illusion Factory has been entrusted by all of the major studios and broadcasters with the advertising and marketing of over $7 billion in filmed, live, broadcast, gaming, AR, VR and regulated gaming forms of entertainment, generating more than $100 Billion in revenue and 265 awards for creativity and technology for our clients. When I took a break from film school at UCLA to move to Hawaii, my mother did not lecture me. Instead, she took 150 of her favorite aphorisms and in her beautiful calligraphy, wrote them artistically throughout a blank journal. That is the origin of the Lessons from the Mountain series. Since then, on my journeys to the top of a mountain to watch the sunrise, I have spent countless hours contemplating words of wisdom from the sages of all races, genders and political persuasions, constantly accumulating the thoughts to guide me on my life path. I hope you enjoy my books. Please let me know your thoughts, as I highly value your feedback!