Much of my work is focused on helping people get to agreement. One of the obstacles to getting agreement is the notion of “my way, your way or the highway.” My wife used to have a very effective way of positioning this. She would say, ”You just want to do it the John Kuypers’ way!” I found that a tough defence to penetrate. She was right, of course. It finally dawned on me one day that this was her way of saying, “I want to do it the Joanne way.” She was offended when I pointed that out.
I’ve since noticed that this is a common obstacle to getting to agreement. I was coaching a middle manager client and the same pattern emerged. I pointed out that the upsetting issue we were discussing was simply a matter of “your way or her way.” She retorted in a miffed voice, “I don’t want my way. I just want her to live up to our original agreement!” When I pressed on and said that nonetheless, the disagreement on the table could still be characterized as “your way versus her way,” she also grew offended!
I was discussing this topic with a group of colleagues when one of them told me about a situation with a Christian friend of his. The friend had separated from his wife and was now living with another woman. He wanted to point out to his friend but this was not the Christian thing to do, fully aware that this message was unlikely to be welcomed. When I pointed out that this was an example of my way versus your way, the discussion quickly ended.
It is difficult to resolve a disagreement with someone if you can’t admit that your position is simply different from theirs. Of course you have your reasons, and so do they. I believe that the reason people have trouble with this idea is that it equalizes the argument. It puts the disagreement on a level playing field. Most of us don’t want that. We want to believe that our position is not only right but it is superior. However, the end result of this attitude is all too often “the highway.” The relationship becomes damaged or broken and often the issue at hand was not really worth that price. We rendered judgment on the other person and they on us…and avoidance became the only solution. Jesus words in Mt 7:1 reveal their truth once again.
Think about relationships you have had that are now broken. What were the core issues? Were they even clear? Or did the relationship end because of an non-stop flurry of emotional barbs, criticisms or cold shoulders? See if you recognize the pattern. There is an issue; there is a criticism; there is the flurry of emotional zaps, and in the end each person goes their separate way with the issue lost and unresolved.
Learning to get to agreement when you’re not on the same page with someone is a learned skill. Yet it is much more than that. It’s a spiritual journey to becoming committed to loving thy neighbor. Learn more about how I help clients walk this path by clicking on http://innerpeacemission.org