My Family (a long time ago)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Working Things Out

We’ve been hearing a lot lately out of Washington about the debt limit and how it needs to be raised or we’ll face a catastrophe in the United States. I’m not really into politics and I’m not going to get into a political debate or discussion, but doesn’t this seem just a bit ridiculous to anyone else out there? Each political party has stated their side of the argument and made sure everyone knows why they’re right and the other side is wrong. Each side has pulled the “we’re doing what’s best for the taxpayers” slant while saying the other side is going to destroy our great nation. The arguments for whatever side people are on or lean to ring true for them while the other side just doesn’t get it. As the deadline looms neither side is ready to give an inch.

Maybe these guys need to go back to their childhood to remember how to do just that. My parents taught me how to work things out, how to compromise and how to get along. Now I’m not talking about compromising on something that is illegal, immoral or unethical, but on something that is preference or opinion. I’m not going to compromise on murdering someone (“Well, if you just shoot them once in the head, it’ll be painless, so that’s not as bad as strangling someone so they slowly die from a lack of oxygen.”), but I’ll compromise on how much work I do around the house (“Honey, I’m not doing ANY work around the house - no cleaning, no cooking, no laundry.” We’ll see how far that gets me with my wife!). Through many sibling quarrels, my parents taught us how to work things out.

It’s actually quite simple. First you present what you think, what you want or what you want to do. While you’re doing this, I listen to all that you’re saying. If necessary, when you’re finished, I ask questions to make sure I understand you. Next, I present what I think, what I want or what I want to do. While I’m doing this, you listen to all that I’m saying. If necessary, when I’m finished, you ask questions to make sure you understand me. Notice there’s no pointing fingers, no belittling the other guy and no yelling and screaming. At this point, neither person is likely to just give in and do exactly what the other person wants. That’s why you’re having this discussion in the first place. Now comes the compromising. My parents taught us to find some common ground and go from there. In my example about housework above, my wife and I would see that we both want to live in peace and harmony, and that we want to be able to spend some time together. So I would compromise and do some of the work. Everybody wins; my wife doesn’t have to do all the boring housework and I get to live.

There was one last alternative that my parents employed if we were fighting with each other or just wouldn’t get along with each other. They would make us sit on the couch facing each other and we couldn’t get off it until we were ready to get along with each other. You may be thinking, “That’s so mean!” Actually, it wasn’t. Most times, within about two minutes we were smiling, laughing and totally forgetting why were sitting on the couch instead of doing whatever it was we wanted to do. Sometimes, just seeing the silly look on the other person’s face was enough to make me laugh. Have you ever noticed how funny most people look when they’re being uncompromising, stubborn and angry for no good reason? Take a look in the mirror next time you’re like that. I caught my face in a mirror once when I was being stubborn and angry and it wasn’t a pretty picture. The key to the couch faceoff was that neither of us got our way, but it didn’t matter because we were friends again.

So here’s my proposal to the House and Senate on the debt issue. Take a page from my parents’ book and lock the decision makers in a room and tell them that they can’t come out until they’ve come up with a compromise that everyone can live with. Not one that everyone is totally happy with, because that’s not going to happen. But I think they can find some common ground and come up with something that both sides are mostly happy with. That’s how compromise works. Maybe they’ll even come out smiling, laughing and forgetting exactly why they were put in there in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. There are moments of genius in this. Amy