Choose Not to Engage

Choose Not to Engage

Earlier, I was replying to a comment, and I wanted to link to Hearts-At-Home since I had mentioned it.  I looked up their website to make sure I had the proper URL, finished my comment, and went back to close the other window when something shiny caught my attention… which happens a lot to me.  On the right hand side of the website, there was a pretty blue-ish image that read, “Hearts at Home Blog”.  Since I am just starting out with my blogging/speaking journey, I am obsessed with reading others who are on the same path (but almost always way, way ahead of me).  So, I clicked on the link and began to browse.

I came across this blog entry by Sandra Joseph.  I appreciate the reminder as a mother, wife, friend, co-worker… heck, if you are a woman, some point in there is bound to speak to you (possibly if you are a man too, but I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out how men think).  I liked the article so much that I’ve printed it out and now have it taped to the wall next to my desk (along with various pictures my son has colored for me).  Her points were excellent:  Slow Down, Check Your Expectations, Deal, Offer Grace.  Go on over and read the article… 25 cents says you’ll want to print it out and tape it up in a prominent place too.

Having said all that, there is one line of her blog that stood out to me:  “Thankfully, Bill chose not to engage with me in a conflict …”  Having just had a late night Friday talking with Marc about how we tend to try to out argue each other, this statement really spoke to me.  The truth is that in any conflict we all have the same choice to make:  either we will engage or we won’t.  It’s really that simple.  In our case, neither Marc nor I want to be wrong (who does?) so we will argue and argue and split hairs over semantics rather than looking at the underlying point being made or better yet, not giving into the knee-jerk reaction to engage and defend ourselves.  We reluctantly had to acknowledge to each other that even our apologies can turn into a debate because one of us will paraphrase the other person rather than directly quote them and next thing you know we’ve each pulled out the equivalent of marriage copy write “laws” and launched into our counter-arguments.

“Thankfully, Bill chose not to engage with me in conflict…”  Sandra’s husband, Bill, is surely a wise man… and perhaps the wisdom they have in their marriage comes from their 27 years of trial and error… but it’s clear that Bill did more than just hear the words that Sandra spoke to him.  He saw the situation, the real situation, evaluated that the conflict might be directed at him but wasn’t really abouthim, and he made a choice not to engage in the conflict.  That’s not to say that Bill was or is a doormat.  He simply didn’t choose that time – the heat of the moment – to launch into his counter-attack.  Once Sandra had calmed down, she goes on to say, she came back to him realizing that she had wronged him and she apologized.

How many conflicts have I choosen to walk away from?  Oh, to be sure, there have been times when I’ve said, “I’m not going to fight about this yet again…” and walked out of the room only to return within 5 minutes to pick up where I had left off.  But how many times have I purposefully looked beyond the hurting words into the heart of the person and evaluated what was really going on?  Not many.   I actually think I’ve done it more in the work place than I have in my personal relationships… and I am sure that there are several reasons for that:  1.  You cannot really just go off on someone at work and 2. There’s something to be said about the ones you love the most being able to hurt you the quickest and our inability to not allow them to push all the wrong buttons all at once.  But you know, I think I’d like to extend more courtesies to the ones I love than I do to total strangers.  I’d like to choose not to engage in conflict.  And the good news is that the choice really is up to me!


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2 Responses to “Choose Not to Engage”
  1. Moria says:

    I sometimes feel I am at the opposite end of the spectrum. That I will not engage b/c of fear of confrontation. I don’t like rocking the boat and I really don’t like getting into arguments. I often feel that I can’t express my side of and argument with as much intellect as I would like. I am learning that confrontation is not always bad but it must be constructive and done with love.


  2. Hey Moria! You are absolutely right – confrontation is not always bad but it must be constructive and done with love.

    I can certainly see how completely avoiding conflict can be just as destructive as constantly engaging. In a relationship of any kind, the give and take has to work both ways. If someone is doing something that upsets, annoys, hurts or otherwise bothers us, and we don’t say anything to them, they will continue to do it. And we will continue to be upset, annoyed, hurt or otherwise bothered by it… and it will fester. Eventually either we explode and the person (rightly so) feels as if we’ve sprung something out of left field on them and we are punishing them extra for repeatedly doing something they weren’t even aware was “wrong” or we implode and start to withhold some of our affection, kindness, etc as punishment.

    I think that where Bill was genius is that he didn’t engage during the heat of the moment. He waited. And had she not gone back to appologize, I feel certain he would have found an appropriate time to bring it up without condemnation, judgement, or bitterness.

    I wished I had as much self control… but I know that if I keep mindful of it and keep practicing it, the ability to not engage during the heat of the moment WILL become the norm for me rather than the exception.


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