“Well maybe I wouldn’t have done that, had you done what you were supposed to last week, but sure, let’s blame this entire situation on me” I recited in a Tony-worthy monologue as I rinsed the shampoo from my hair this morning, playing out a number of potential arguments that could possibly come to fruition.
Have you ever found yourself having imaginary fights in the shower? Have you caught yourself mapping out exactly what snide comment you’re going to say when your roommate comes in? Have you ever walked into a meeting or a dinner with your arms crossed and your defense ready, shower-prepared, and unwavering? I sincerely hope so, otherwise I’m even odder than I expected.
I was bred to fight. A closeted kid in Texas, the youngest of four brothers, mock-trial and debate star, sports-player, and small town sweetheart. All roads lead to one goal - winning. I learned the world is not kind, nor to be trusted, and if you want something, you eliminate all other possibilities. I learned that being yourself can result in being walked over. I learned that better comes to those who take it.
I love competition. I feel a visceral level of satisfaction when I out-think an opponent. What I don’t love, is what I’d become in those years. Rabid. And if you think I’m exaggerating, ask my friends about the RISK Incident of 2016, or why none of them will play board games with me any more.
A few years ago, I went to comic-con with some friends, where I met a fella that my friend was (and still is) dating. You know how sometimes you meet someone and instantly know they’re going to change your life somehow? This was one of those moments. His name is Chun, and he had a world view that was the exact opposite of mine. Where I find myself having to thaw the ice block that is my heart, Chun seems to naturally overflow with love and compassion for others. Chun and I have become closer friends over the years, but I doubt he knows quite how much of an impact he had on my life.
I don’t remember exactly what I was venting about when Chun said, “just approach the situation with love,” but I know I can’t forget that phrase even if I wanted to. It comes to mind every single time I find myself preparing for a fight.
I’d gotten so incredibly accustomed to never allowing myself a moment of vulnerability, I had learned to stop considering the other party entirely.
What I’ve learned since that conversation is pretty simple - when you approach with love, everything gets better. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still fiercely competitive, and when the time calls for it, I will show my fangs to protect my family, friends, and clients, but more often than not, that need is all in my head. It’s just the result of my simulated wort-case-scenario replaying in my mind. When I push that to the side, I find myself doing something incredibly important in moments of confrontation - listening. I’ve learned to look past pointed tones or snide comments, because I know that I’ve been there too. I’ve said those things and felt that way. Everyone is on a journey, and I don’t know what theirs has been like. Sometimes it’s easier to retaliate than to acknowledge these things. Sometimes I still do - I’m still on my journey, too.
The next time you find yourself putting your guard up, ask yourself, “is this person being intentionally malicious?” When I ask myself that one simple question, I feel my entire world shift. I find myself looking for solutions, rather than blame. For love, rather than hate.