Her heart was heavy. Tears flowed over quiet sobs. “She’s leaving and we didn’t even get to spend any time together. She promised! She cut my hair, but that’s not spending time together. I know that she doesn’t like me.”
“I tried,” said the other. “I really wanted to see my friends, too. No matter how much I do, it’s never enough! I love my family and my friends are important to me, too. Everyone thinks I don’t love them.”
Ugh! My heart broke for the two of them!
Earlier in the week I was invited onto a rollercoaster of other people’s emotion-packed misunderstandings. This was only one example. It’s not a place I like to be, mostly because it takes willingness on the person who wants to be heard and to have things fixed, to also hear and see what they are thinking and saying that has contributed to the divisive situation or misunderstanding.
And that, I have learned, rarely happens quickly or easily, especially if I’m in the middle.
Instead, people look for agreement to validate feelings about an “attack” from somebody else, or justification for something they’ve said or done that was misinterpreted.
“But she promised!” she insisted over and over.
“She’s always complaining!” said the other, feet firmly planted on her side.
And that puts me in the position of referee.
These days even the best referees have an added advantage of watching a recorded replay to shed some light on the facts. But we don’t have that technology available to us day at home with our families or at work with our colleagues.
So, what’s a referee to do?
Quit or change tactics. That’s my suggestion.
At least we can stop the ego from puffing us up to believe that we can resolve differences better than the two involved. ‘Cause you know what? People typically do what they want. Even with the facts in plain sight, there might be an internal dialogue or a self-esteem issue that needs to be handled that no amount of coaching or refereeing can fix without awareness on the part of the “offender” first.
What about changing my job altogether? What if I held up a mirror instead of a solution?
I love this (from Luke 6:42)
“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”
What if I pointed out the facts, helped to identify the emotions and feelings that are each person’s private responsibility, and encouraged solutions based on what can be done, not on how people felt?
What if I resigned as a referee in Mote Detection, and became a coach in IntraPersonal Beam Discovery? (PMD for short.} I’ll bet it pays better…
I wonder, wonder, wonder. Would it help?
(P.S. I did practice the new approach in the above situation, and there was instantaneous humilty on one person’s part. It was a start.)
What do you think?
- Are you often put in the middle of misunderstandings and / or disagreements?
- Have you shifted from referee to coach, or is there an even better solution?