The Road More Traveled (and more, and more . . . )

So, on Friday we drove from San Diego up to Bonny Doon, CA (north of Santa Cruz) to attend our daughter Annie's High School graduation. We then made the 9-hour return trip on Sunday! Driving as a family is interesting; it seems like it takes us a while to align on the "rules of the car" for long trips, but this one seemed easier. The rules are pretty simple: please don't shriek, throw things at the driver, open the doors on the highway, or give less than 2 minutes notice of the need for a bathroom stop. Of course, we do have to find a way to alternate DVD choices and share DS games, but that one gets sticky - and that's the topic of the day.


We tried to "help" Kai and Kade find a peaceful way to choose DVDs to watch, toys to play with, and DS games to alternate. As we were trying to help them understand that they "shouldn't" choose a movie that the other one hated, I had a small epiphany about trying to referee these types of things. Simply stated, why do it? Do they really need us to be referees? Is that the best role we can play for our children? By refereeing, aren't we really just inserting our own definition and understanding of "fair and unfair" into a situation that doesn't really even impact us and is not of our own making? I remember both playing and coaching youth sports growing up - the referee was the one person on the ice that all coaches and players disagreed with (unless they got their way.) Think about a job description for a referee: make judgments, enforce rules, supervise the play, ensure fairness. Not good for me, not good for them.


Like most families, we don't always agree about everything, and sometimes I'm sure we all wish for a final arbitrator to make decisions that will be fair for all of us. But why? I think it's because of our need for control: we need things to go our way, we need to be right, we need to set direction, we need to be victorious. We need to see right and wrong, good or bad, yes or no. We thrive on the conflict (even though we bitch about it) because conflict allows us to be in control. As Beth Fuller pointed out so gracefully during a chat at the LiG conference, if you can open up your heart and relax your need to control, you can begin to see these issues as contrasts rather than conflicts. And a contrast is simply interesting and an opportunity to learn and grow - and isn't that what we're after, more things that are interesting that allow us to learn? So instead of trying to force fairness when they can't decide whether to watch The Princess Bride or The Pink Panther, I can take a deep breath (or five) and celebrate the contrast between them - and see if maybe I can let go just enough to trust them to work it out themselves.


Well, I think it means the same thing! I see plays for power and control every day in the workplace, and one of the key ways that people exercise it is by setting themselves up as peacekeepers (i.e., referees) who can solve any workplace conflict. That may be true, and there may be some benefit to it; but just as refereeing a dispute between Kai and Kade may buy me some temporary peace, it does absolutely nothing for them long term. So at work, I try to stay out of solving the disputes (even though I'm in HR and most people thing that's my job) and ensure that people are communicating with each other authentically about their needs and wants that led to the "contrast" to begin with. Sure I get tempted to solve once in a while; but remembering our trip this weekend should help me stay focused.

More to come . . .

1 comment:

  1. I like the idea of looking at different points of view as contrasts instead of conflicts. Thank you for reminding me.

    Oh, and I'm not coming to you from Bedford, Bedfordshire, but isn't that such lovely redundancy.