How Being on the Same Side Strengthens Your Relationships
MAUDE: We have a relationship that never devolves into conflict. Big claim, I know. One of the basic approaches that keep our harmony and peace growing and spreading is that we are always looking for the best possible outcome for all. This leads us to talk with each other when our choice of actions or resolutions differ. Our talks are not filled with tensions or charge and are directed toward finding that place of rightness that we can both get behind. A recent example of how we work with these kinds of differences when they come up is in the story of two renters: our new tenant and a man who rents a garage.
PHIL: We have an apartment that came vacant and have just re-rented it to a petite 20-year-old female student; let us call her Jane. We also rent out a garage directly below the apartment to, let us call him Fred. He is a semi-homeless handyman with a van who has filled the garage with equipment and spends his days fixing cars, doing woodwork projects, playing the radio and just hanging out. He is in his sixties with wild white hair and beard, and has no sense of boundaries. He has been there for years and considers himself the mayor of the alley. He starts unending conversations, monologues really, with anyone passing by, strangers or not, and listeners need a determination bordering on rudeness to extricate themselves.
MAUDE: I saw a potential for problems and discomfort arising, and I feel we have a responsibility as the owners to work with those renting to ensure their rights and safety. I felt with the new tenant that it might be unnerving for her to be confronted with our back garage mountain man. I began chewing on how to find a resolution that would be responsible and still work for everyone.
I tried to discuss it with Phil and he was not really responsive and clearly did not want to engage in the issue. I thought that he didn’t want to get into potential conflict with garage man and felt it was better just to let it roll. I didn’t feel comfortable with that way of not dealing with it and said I would talk with the fellow in question. I continued to mull on how, as I like to take time to think through my response when possible to come to the best solution.
PHIL: For my part, it didn’t concern me too much because initially we were deciding if she would be the tenant, and I didn’t like the idea of telling Fred what he could and couldn’t do. I saw Maude as repeatedly worrying about something that might not even come to pass, and I didn’t want to be distracted by hypotheticals.
MAUDE: So, on the morning the new woman was going to move in I went to speak with Fred. I approached him in a friendly manner and told him I wanted his help and wanted to talk with him. I explained that our new tenant was a young woman living alone and that it would be good to keep noise to a minimum and not to go up to the apartment to greet her as she might feel uncomfortable at first. I solicited his help in insuring her privacy to get comfortable here. He felt included in helping her to feel welcome and happily agreed to give her space.Look for the best possible outcome for everyone #quote #relationships Click To Tweet
PHIL: When we write this blog, we often start by looking at what happened with us in the week, so we talked about the differing ways we approached the Fred problem. Maude described herself as chewing over the problem and inviting me to take part; I saw it as unnecessary worrying. But I also recognized my extreme reluctance to get involved in unpleasant conversations and was very grateful that Maude, by thinking over the course of several days about how to approach Fred, arrived at a way that was amicable.
MAUDE: When we talked about the week, searching for the blog topic, Phil shared that he felt I was worrying about something before it even happened and he didn’t want to do that, although he also admitted he wanted to avoid conflict. I explained that I wasn’t worrying but rather trying to find a strategy that would diffuse a potential problem and I also saw his point of not getting too far involved in my mind before something actually happens. We both grew closer and we both felt understood and respected by the other.
PHIL: The point of the story is that we recognize that we each have different ways of approaching things and don’t get upset by that. We are not locked into our way being the only way, and we are open to alternatives. A discussion like this is an opportunity to explore our motives and in that way, come to know ourselves better. During this process, we are open with each other because we know we are on the same side. This is more than a verbal agreement – it is because I know Maude, know from the years we have been together how she is. (Our recent trust blog expands on this.)
We have done this so much that we have a strong sense that other solutions are always possible, and that means not holding on to how I think it should be. We both know it can be done some other way.
One of the joys of this approach is the sense that Maude is both different from me and also not a threat of any sort, and it is an extraordinary sense, somewhat like looking at a cat or a bird or a tree and marveling that they each have their own completely different life. But with Maude, we have our humanity in common. I see her different ways of doing and being, and this gives me an opportunity to look at how I’ve (re)acted and leads me to look deeper into who I am, and adds to the sense of myself.
MAUDE: We don’t feel that tension around differences because we know we are on the same side and that we both want that best possible outcome for all. It is never “my way or the highway,” and even when handling bigger issues, we know we are going to find a way to handle things that will make both of us feel right about it.
Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: A conversation
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