Conflict at home can easily spill over into your career. Here’s one of the most common causes of conflict and what to do about it…
When I was younger I noticed that I used to occasionally get in arguments with whoever I was dating. These conversations would follow a pattern, which looked more or less like the following:
- Girlfriend is upset about something
- She explains what it is that I did that upset her
- I look for logical arguments to justify my behavior and why she was wrong
- She gets more upset
- I walk away thinking she is ridiculous since I “won” the argument
I bring this up because my wife had reason to be upset with me a couple weeks ago when I forgot to do something she thought was important. However, I’ve grown up a lot over the past (many) years, so I admitted my mistake and apologized… and was totally honest about what happened… (In this case I just forgot).
I could have justified my mistake: mentioned how many hours I had worked that week, how the request had come in while I was in the car driving, how it wasn’t important and on and on.
-But I didn’t, and magically the problem dissolved before our eyes. -I’m just lucky she didn’t know me in the years when my approach would have been totally different…
Logic + Need to be Right = Conflict at Home
Conflict at home can derail your personal life and your professional life. I think for those of us (especially men) who learned in high school and college to debate their sides with logic and vigor, and to prize being right above all else, admitting you are wrong can be very, very difficult.
I’m not sure when exactly I figured this out, but somewhere along the way I realized that explaining that someone was being illogical or too emotional or making a big deal out of nothing wasn’t going to make the problem disappear any faster. In fact, it was going to exacerbate it.
Those of us who are left brained, quantitative, science types tend to think that logic trumps emotion. In fact, nothing could be further than the truth. Research discussed by Daniel Kahneman (among others) shows that we tend to make decisions emotionally and then look for facts to back them up.
Then there is the quote, “A thing is important if someone think it so” (which I can’t seem to find the source of) that contains so much wisdom. To take an extreme example: it is not important that your 4 year old wear his Star Wars socks to school, but to him it means everything… and try explaining to him otherwise logically.
The point is, if you are looking to minimize conflict at home, stop worrying about being right and start worrying about understanding. Understand why feelings are hurt, why the issue mattered, and what (if anything) you can do to make things right.
The thing may not be important to you, but the person who cares about it sure is.