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Being attached to being right makes us toxic.

Being attached to being right makes us toxic.

We’re following a list of blog topics all year that were predetermined by the list of Tilt365 traits and it’s ironic that this week’s topic is about being Friendly. I certainly didn’t feel very friendly yesterday. Earlier this week I found myself on the receiving end of a very personal, emotional attack from someone attached to being right. I knew there was a conflict we needed to resolve going into the call, but I was assuming we both had good intentions.

I was interested in hearing her point of view to see what part of the problem I could own and I had faith she had the experience to approach it that way too, so we could both learn from the situation. Conflict resolution 101, right?

I was genuinely curious. Until she wasn’t. I was willing to learn something. Until she wasn’t. Effective conflict resolution works brilliantly if both parties use the 100%/100% rule and each take 100% responsibility for their own contribution to the problem so they can approach the situation with a mindset that is open to learning something we’ve obviously missed. Unfortunately, in this case, it was abundantly clear that the other party in this circumstance had already assumed guilt on my part and launched straight into blaming - the first sign of a toxic mindset that is underpinned with painful ego-fear. This is a no-win scenario. Resolution takes two. Win-Lose and Lose-Win are the only results of a blame game. 

We can all fall prey to this mindset when we feel a situation is unfair, for anger is almost always a result of a perceived injustice that has some level of truth to it. The trouble is, we don’t usually know all of the facts or see things from another person’s view, so in order to resolve differences, we have to be willing to listen and learn. Blaming without listening is never an effective path to achieve equity. What it’s certain to accomplish is the loss of relationship, advocacy and influence. In fact, it shrinks the influence of the person not open to learning from the situation. 

Did I get angry in response to this personal attack?

Yes. Absolutely. It caught me by surprise and was confusing, to say the least. One, because I barely knew this person. Two, because I genuinely liked her until that encounter. And three, because my intentions were good but she never got to hear anything about my intentions. It got heated because I’ve learned not to back down when confronted by a bully who is trying to intimidate, dominate and manipulate with anger and control. So I met her aggression with as much firmness as I could muster, tried to process my own emotional reactions in the moment and explained that I didn’t appreciate being addressed in such a manner. I also hung in there for a bit with the discussion to see what I could learn because a less inflamed person was also in attendance and trying to get the facts out on the table. It didn’t end well. 

Once I calmed down later, I extended an olive branch to try out a second, more private 1-2-1 conversation and to take responsibility for building a relationship with someone I didn’t know very well. Two days later, I have not heard back.

I’ve learned not to back down or be passive to bullying, so I plan to report the problem to someone above her. But here’s where the real lesson in mindfulness comes in….

We have to get back to our our friendly nature and mindset ASAP so we can stop it from spreading!!!

What that requires is something really, really important. Something rather difficult, actually, and takes practice. It’s being careful not to get attached to any certain outcome from the other party. Otherwise, we’ll be doing the same thing we just encountered from them. Think about it. They are in fear.  A fearful-ego part is in control of their personality and is vehemently attached to BEING RIGHT. And we will be tempted to be attached to the same thing in response. That’s human nature. If someone attacks, we attack back so we don't get victimized. If someone blames, we are tempted to blame back. In fact, if you try to collaborate with a person in this one-way tirade, you are the one who will lose if you don't stand up for yourself. The first option is to try to get them to come back to reason in a mature adult mindset. If that doesn't work. You have to meet them where they are and be equally firm or it will end up lose-win for you! And here's the most important part. Remove yourself quickly. One-way interactions are not relationships. They are co-dependent and dysfunctional agreements that repeat conflict over and over and it takes two to tango. Don't participate! 

Then take a few breaths, center yourself and focus on your own lesson in this after you calm down. To get back to ourselves, we have to have a dose of character, a dose of humility and a dose of patience all wrapped up in one. As quickly as possible. Not easy. We need to choose to focus on being mindful. 

The other temptation is to swing the pendulum on ourselves. We call that a stress-flip to the opposite reaction where we're tempted to blame or attack ourselves. But this situation does not call for taking ALL of the responsibility for the dynamic on ourselves and cowering. That would actually be another toxic reaction that reinforces to them that they won and they were right to blame you. They are rarely 100% right. We are rarely 100% right. In EVERY interaction there is some missed piece of information or context for which each must take responsibility. Situations are far too complex to be entirely to blame on one party. That's a cognitive distortion called The Fundamental Attribution Error. This is when we zero in and overgeneralize blame or credit to one person, when the situation and context are usually extremely complex. There are usually many variables at play. 

Find your own lessons and leave them to do the same. 

In this situation, I immediately journaled about it and wrote down possible ways I could have contributed to the conflict without realizing it in the moment. I may never know if I figured it out without her, but at least I’ve thought about some things that could make me more careful in the future. If the other party is wise enough to do the same, there could later be a chance of working it out. If not, there is no chance of working it out by going passive or blaming ourselves. What we have to do, is stop ourselves from becoming attached to anything at all from the other person. That’s their responsibility alone. And their price to pay possibly too. We must do our part to report it, so others in the future may be protected, then trust it to karma and let it go. They may not be open to learning right now, but with enough repeated situations, one day they may be willing to see that there are always many contributoring factors to every conflict. Being unattached means being willing to let them learn their life lessons another time. It is NOT our job to edify another person when they are not ready or willing to hear and learn. Unless they report to us and then we have an obligation to protect the many - at the short-term discomfort of the one. 

So today, I leave my own karma up to me. And other people’s karma up to them. Taking responsibility on my end means extending an olive branch but being ok if it isn’t accepted. It means not being passive too. I’ve done what I can. And that’s what matters. Now I’m back to my friendly self. Even as I think about her. Only now, can I tap into empathy and try to understand that whatever she thought I was up to may have reminded her of an old pain she has experienced before. I remind myself that I barely know her. This is her pain, but also pain that we all share in some form. I know how it feels. I soften inside. 

Being friendly in an often-unfriendly world means not being attached to what we cannot control.  So, today, I am back to my friendly self. And will be kind in my next encounter.