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19 August, 2008

Breaking up is hard to do... but making up is easy

Location: close
Mood: better

It's a lot easier to resolve things than it is to resolve not to resolve them.

I've written a lot about communication lately, and about how we are always stuck in our own subjective world, filtering everything through the only lens we have available - our own history, and bias, and fear. And it is ceasing to surprise me that sometimes I get things wrong. Sometimes I assess people's actions through my filter of "what would this mean if it were my action" instead of through a more neutral filter of "what could this mean, given that it is not my action". In a recent course at work, on communication and personality types, we learned an acronym that we're supposed to remember when it comes to interpersonal challenges: MRI. Unlike the other type of MRI (which I have also been lucky enough to experience recently), this one means "Most Reasonable Interpretation". And what it really means is "How can we evaluate another person's actions allowing for the maximal benefit of doubt?" - i.e. assume they do not mean us ill will but that we simply may not understand their mode of communication.

I got into a massive conflict with a very close friend over a month ago. Actually, it ended up being a mini-explosion with one extremely close friend, and a slow-blo fuse of an explosion followed by complete radio silence with a second close friend. One of the situations resolved itself immediately, but the other took a long time. And the entire thing happened because the three people involved all were experiencing stresses of their own, and then communicated with their own natural communication styles, which were not received as intended by the respective recipients. And the amazing thing to me is not that this happened, but that I dug my heels in so hard with respect to the slow-blo conflict, and refused to see things in their true light. I looked for every reason that I was justified in my behavior, and looked for every way that the other person could be "to blame". But the reality was that I got my feelings hurt, and did not know how to communicate it effectively.

So lots of time passed, and eventually I realized two things. First of all, the risk of trying to reconcile and failing was far outweighed by the reward of "making things better". And second of all, we only get one chance in this world, and time is ticking away every day. I was less happy around here with that conflict rattling around in my emotional belfry. And I was probably creating unhappiness in others via my stubbornness.

Conflict resolved. Everyone relieved. And something useful learned. Not such a painful life lesson after all.

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