Conflict Resolution : Open or Close?

In the heat of the moment it is so incredibly easy to make a snap decision and close a door. We do this, in part, because it gives us a sense of control; hanging up on someone to make your point, storming out of a meeting because you want to show someone you mean business, or leaving the house in anger to punish a partner. The downside to this blatant display of power is this; if things (whatever ‘things’ may be) were not 100% complete- you are left with a dangling thread in your life. We all know how irritating it is to have a dangling thread….and we know that leaving it to dangle invites the big unravel.

There are a few times in my life when I have ‘closed a door’ and really been happy and satisfied about it. Far more frequently I have been regretful and ultimately disappointed in myself. Choosing to open a conversation leaves possibility….closing a door leaves nothing but the obvious… a closed-door.

Many joke about the ‘five second rule’ for when food is dropped on the floor. In my life, I have a three-day rule that I follow like a religion. If something has really upset me and I am tempted to approach my offender in the heat of emotion… I make myself wait three days. During that three-day period I can process my emotion any way that I want to; I can vent to friends for hours, I can write draft emails and say every angry unkind thing I can think of, I can hit a pillow with a baseball bat etc.  The only rule in place,  is that I have to wait three days to speak my mind to the person that I want to give a piece of my mind to.

I have been mature enough to live by the three-day rule for about a decade now, and do you know not once have I ever said on the third day, what I absolutely felt I MUST say on the first day. What typically occurs is by that third day when I think about what my original ‘ plan of action’ was- I am mortified at what I wanted to say 72 hours prior.

There is very little in this life that truly needs to be expressed in the heat of the moment. Firing off words in the heat of battle gives us temporary satisfaction and often long-term regret.  Biting our tongue while swallowing  a dose of the tonic of time can be a game changer. Next time you are tempted to close a door with your reaction to someone give yourself the gift of three days…. I can almost guarantee it will allow you to open a conversation, rather than close a door.

Have you ever learned something concrete about the language (or lack thereof) of conflict resolution?  If you have, did this come by way of formal education, someone else modeling it, or the school of hard knocks?