Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why Don't They Do the Right Thing?

Why can’t people just do the right thing? Wouldn’t that make life a whole lot easier for everyone?

These are rhetorical questions, of course. People aren’t always going to do the right thing. They’re not always going to make life easier for everyone.

What, after all, is the right thing? What I believe is correct in a given situation is, much as I hate to admit it, colored by my own beliefs and perceptions. There may be information I’m lacking. I may be blind to something others can see.

Think about what happens when a child explains to you how they got into a fight in school, they were just minding their own business, someone picked on them, they merely defended themselves. Open and shut case, right? NOT!

Turns out, according to the principal, they were not just minding their own business when they made the snide remark “accidentally” overheard by the other kid. Nor were they being picked on when they “accidentally” shoved the other kid passing them in the hall. Nor was it merely self-defense when their friends circled the pair cheering them on to an all out knock-down drag-out. Not so open and shut after all.

Many of life’s more complex dilemmas share this type of scenario. What seems quite clear is really a bit cloudy. What seems black and white turns out to have a lot of gray.

When people don’t do the “right” thing and life becomes more difficult as a result, there are some ways to try to ease the anger and frustration that inevitably results.

First, try to keep an open mind. Remember, there are two sides to every story, at least. Try to see things from the other’s point of view.

Maybe you’re not seeing everything or getting all the information. Collect more data. Find out as much as you can before drawing conclusions. And I don’t mean just getting your friends to side with you and support you in the conflict. Although there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy social support.

Is the other person pushing your buttons? Stay calm and act calm. Or, don’t act until you can do so in a calm, cool, collected manner.

Try to see the things you like and respect about the other guy. Sometimes noticing these strengths helps calm us down and act more responsibly.

Make sure you own house is in order. Have you run into this type of conflict with others? Have you had problems handling similar situations in the past? How can you approach it differently this time? What’s keeping you from solving the problem? Are emotions that have no place in the conflict getting in the way? Are your typical (i.e., not always useful) behavior patterns keeping you from solving the problem?

Bottom line, it would be great if people always did the right thing. Life would be so much easier. But a little boring perhaps? So next time you’re quite sure you’re in the right, take stock and figure out what to do next. Right or wrong, it’s always good to be past the conflict.

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