I’m kind of embarrassed to share this. I cracked it at my partner Ben last week for eating the cheese slices that we use for the kids’ school lunches. Five at a time! But, let me give you the context so you don’t think it was purely a ‘time of the month’ response from my end.
A few weeks before this, Ben and I were at the supermarket and he asks me; “Why don’t you buy blocks of cheese because these slices are triple the price?”. I reply with; “Coz the kids won’t eat it otherwise. It stinks of effort for them. You know what teenagers are like”. We buy the block anyway.
So when I see him eating the cheese slices (that are three times the price) I went at him. Yep, I turned it into a fight. Being a ‘fighter’ by nature (someone who feels comfortable when conflict arises) I need to be self-aware and manage my responses carefully. Did he deserve that? No. Did I even contemplate self-management in that moment? No.
Ben is also comfortable with conflict and even combat. Dangerous combo right?! So what do you think he came back with?
After my little outburst, he looked at me compassionately, took a breath and calmly said; ‘Ok babe’. Then quietly walked outside and into the garage where he continued working on the beautiful recycled timber, industrial table I’d asked for, as my Christmas gift. Ouch!
You know what Ben didn’t do? He didn’t fight the fighter. That would be like putting his fingers in the spokes of a moving bicycle. Dangerous.
That moment, when he didn’t allow my outburst to become an outbreak, I was reminded of the power of not responding. Reminded of the power of taking a breath and responding with compassion. I respected him so much for that. I really did.
So at this time of year when deadlines are looming, we are tired from the year behind us and performance reviews become a platform for giving and receiving feedback, remember; Don’t put your fingers in the wheels of a moving bicycle. Don’t fight the fighter.
Oh, and yes, I did go and apologise… After 10 minutes. So, yes, the ‘expert’ in communication is also very human.
To learn more about how to manage fighters and even flighters, in formal or informal moments, read Chapter 6; ‘It’s All About Safety’ of Fixing Feedback.