Why do so many people “fight” for things, ideas, and positions? Politicians promise to “fight” for their constituents’ interests; why not just discuss them in a civil manner? I want to elect people who get things done rather than those who vow to spend their time not getting along with others. We “fight” City Hall. Why? The politicians and staffers there theoretically work for us. We “fight” for what we believe in – e.g., causes, issues, beliefs. Why not just live our values and beliefs, having rational discourse with those who see the world differently?
Fighting is wearing and wearisome. It causes us to expend tremendous amounts of energy and resources, to get all riled up, to assume/think/believe the worst about people and situations, to expect the worst – which means, of course, that we find the worst. Why not expect the best of people? We are highly likely to find it. Why not seek interests instead of positions? Why not accept the fact that though we won’t always agree with others, we can agree to disagree and remain civil to one another? This is not to say that we simply roll over and accept things that are abhorrent to us. It does mean we stop demonizing those who see the world differently, that we seek common ground, and that we try to reach agreement where we can, disagreeing civilly and seeking reasonable alternatives.
There is no need for the types of anger, vitriol, hatred, and meanness that have become so common in our society. Stop the fighting in our everyday lives. Start there. You may be surprised: world peace could follow. Here are five ways to begin to lose the “fight” word:
1. Watch the bellicose language. In fact, dump it altogether. Why? Our language forms our beliefs, and our beliefs inform our actions. By changing our language we ultimately change our behaviors.
2. Use alternative language that will lead to behaviors that are conducive to getting us closer to what we want. The old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” comes to mind.
3. Take the time to get to know others, especially those with whom you disagree. It’s very easy to revile, speak ill of, and demonize people who we keep at arms’ length. It’s much harder to act out when we have interacted with people individually, gotten to know them, and have looked into their eyes and seen the human beings inside who have hopes and dreams – just like us.
4. Acknowledge that we don’t have to agree on everything.
5. Insist that we respect the fact that those who don’t share our beliefs are fellow human beings who are like us in more ways than they are different. Seek these commonalities, and the differences will become largely insignificant.
Imagine what society would be like if all the vitriol – or even a large proportion of it – instead were channeled into productive language and actions. We might find ourselves getting along in a more peaceful world, with few, if, any, things so important that we feel compelled to fight for them. At the very least, our quality of life would increase dramatically.
What can you do today to replace “fight” language with words of openness, respect, understanding, invitation? By listening to others rather than assuming an adversarial position, we gain insights that help us understand, to see perspectives we hadn’t considered, to find ways that we can each get what we want and need. All this takes a little more time – to get to know people instead of relying on stereotypes to categorize them or to make attributions about them. The ROI (return on investment) of doing this is huge. What are you waiting for?
© 2010 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.