Recently I observed an interaction between two of my grandchildren—Brad, 9, and Megan, 7—as they were eating dinner. Megan was pestering her brother, saying—among other things—“I’m already eating dessert. Why are you still poking around with your dinner?” And, “Hurry up. You always eat slower than everybody else.”
She went on about how he should eat and otherwise behave in his life, and finally he turned to her and said—with amazing calm—“I am not in this conversation.”He then turned back to his meal, completely ignoring his sister and placing each bite in his mouth at his own leisure pace.
Megan tried to bother him a couple more times, but Brad did not respond, and she soon wearied of her efforts and left the table.
The people around us often give us carefully crafted invitations to conflict. They criticize us, ask intrusive questions about what we’re doing, or demand that we satisfy their needs. Just because someone invites you to a knife fight, however, does not mean you have to accept. You don’t have to explain yourself, you don’t have to do what other people want, and you do not have to respond to criticism. You can say—in quite a variety of ways, following the wisdom established by nine-year-old Brad—“I am not having this conversation.” Conflict destroys love, so achieving conflict resolution is critical, and a vital step in that process is simply refusing to participate in conflict.
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