On how I avoided the warm embrace of conflict

This morning I wanted to study and I chose the kitchen as it was the most suitable place.  I would have preferred to do it in the lounge and yet that was taken by daughter who was watching television and my wife who was doing some ironing.

Just to mentally move from my favourite place, the lounge, to the kitchen I had to give something up.  Specifically, I had to give up the idea that as I pay the bills then I should get to call the shots.  That I am entitled to have the lounge irrespective of the wishes of ‘others’.

About twenty minutes into my studying my youngest son came into the kitchen – he had slept in – and joined me at the breakfast bar.  I did not mind this as there is more than enough space.  Then he did, what he always does: he started singing.  I noticed that his singing distracted me and I did not like it.  Yet, I did nothing.  My son continued singing and I started to get emotional.   The thought that entered my head was along the lines of how inconsiderate my son is: does he not get that I am studying?

I tried to put the distractions aside and focus on my studying hoping that my son would soon finish his breakfast and leave.  Well, this son is never in a hurry to get anywhere.  So the point arrived when I had reached my breaking point.  Thankfully I was still in a rational and relatively calm place and saw that I had options.  I could scold my son for being insensitive and disrespectful.  I could just get angry and tell him to leave the kitchen.  I could continue to sit it out in the kitchen.  Or I could simply leave the kitchen – without resentment – and find another room to study in. I chose the last option.

What I took away from this encounter was the following:

  • I had to give up the thinking that said I should get my way because I am the one that pays the mortgage;
  • I had to give the thought that said I am entitled to special treatment in the kitchen because I got here first;
  • I had to give up the thought that I was owed special treatment – silence – by my son;
  • The thought that my son is simply having breakfast where we normally have breakfast came in handy;
  • The thought that my son is simply doing what he loves to do and is often not aware that he is doing – singing;
  • I was attuned to my emotional state and how it was becoming hotter  and took action before it went past the point of no return;
  • I chose to live and let live – to relinquish my ‘claim to the kitchen’ – as that struck me as the most workable solution that would not put a dent in the relationship between myself and my son.

Put differently, the situation itself was not the issue at any time.  The cause of conflict was primarily my thinking about how things should be and how I should be treated by reasonable family members.  When I gave up that thinking and embraced better thinking I solved the issue with no conflict, no damage to anyone or any relationship!

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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