I had one of the most bizarre days on this year’s International Women’s Day. I posted about my feelings on my life and career on Facebook and it is fair to say it brought on a great deal of response. And after a significant amount of some bitter backing and forthing plus me searching my soul, it occurred to me the argument was no longer about gender equality issues. It was about how we argue.
Not too long ago I found myself in a situation with my husband where we needed a counsellor/psychologist to help us navigate some major issues. We being dedicated to our relationship, prefaced the meeting with “we want to learn how to communicate better with each other”. To which she, very surprisingly, said, “I hate that term – communicate better. What it really means is that you keep talking at each other until one convinces the other of their opinion. That will never happen”. And that is what happened yesterday on my Facebook page.
We yelled at each other in Mark Zuckerberg sponsored reality but no one changed their opinion or moved their position. In fact, the opposite happened. We all become convinced of our own arguments. But we could have done it differently. I could have done it differently by using the method the counsellor taught my husband and me.
She had asked me and my husband to imagine ourselves as cars – I was a two-seater sports car and he selected a ute (pickup truck for the Americans among us and a lorry for the Brits). Together we needed to build a family sedan. We had to draw a picture of what we individually wanted from the facets of our life together (work, financial, social, parenting etc) and build that picture using parts from both of our vehicles. We had to know which parts were mandatory and which we had to discard. In the end, we had our family sedan although it didn’t look at all like what we thought it would on the outset.
It was one of the most successful arguments/negotiations of my life and today, I keep reflecting on it. What if we could have used the same technique to discuss the issue rather than get lost in the argument.
Increasingly, negotiations in the big wide world seem to becoming a win-lose dichotomy. We often hear rhetoric on both sides of the divide on what is best and who is right. But what if we focussed on the future and not the past? What if we focussed on what we want for our children or the next generation and the car parts we can supply to build it? What if we fashioned a future where everyone could get what they needed?
I know it sounds liberal and new age but it worked for me and continues to do so. So I urge anyone who reads this to try it. I am not so foolish to believe those who were involved in the Facebook rant of yesterday can utilise this technique to resolve that argument and that includes me. I am, however, hopeful that one of them, just one of them, can build a car to find a solution to a complex problem within a significant relationship they value.