Last night Alyssa and I were headed toward the school for her Spring Band Concert. (Aside: Can I just say that band concerts in which the musicians are between the grades of four and eight are no enjoyable. Not even for the parents of the musicians. We, the parents can APPRECIATE the concert, but no one actually enjoys it. Just saying.)
One the way there, we talked a little about no-win situations.
Alyssa had been in a ‘conversation’ with someone earlier in the day in which this person was angry at something Alyssa had done.
As an example of the issue let’s say that Alyssa had thrown away a partially eaten drumstick. Let’s also say that her dad found that drumstick and was astounded that she’d throw it away when it had at least three bites of chicken left on the bone.
So he’d confront her about this, right? He’d ask why she threw it away and she’d reply with a timid, “I was full…?”
Then he’d go into a tirade about how she was wasting food and she’d just stand there listening.
After his anger over the wasted chicken, let say he asks her, “Do you throw away your food at school?”
This is where the situation becomes no-win. If she says yes, she throws away her lunch at school, he’s going to be even madder at her for wasting more food.
If she says she doesn’t throw away her food, he’s going to respond that of course she doesn’t throw that food away because it’s junk and she always eats junk.
During our car ride, I told Alyssa that at times like the above, when she knows there is no right answer to a questions someone is asking her, she’s allowed to respectfully ask that person what they want to hear.
She is allowed to say, “I know you’re angry and so I know that no matter what I say is going to be wrong and probably make you even madder at me. I’m sorry for the chicken I threw away. What would you like to me to do in the future if I’m full and don’t want to finish my chicken? What can I do that won’t make you mad?”
She listened and nodded.
I hope the heard the real message there, that sometimes, people are mad and want to stay mad. That sometimes you aren’t going to be able to soothe their mad and the only way to ‘win’ is to ask them point blank what they’re hoping to get out of the conversation. Sometimes asking that question will help defuse their anger enough to settle the situation.
I want her to stand up for herself but I also want her to have tools in her grasp that can help her even when she had to be respectful to those who are angry with her.
I also wish I were better at confrontation myself. I hate confrontation and I never know the right thing to say until after the confrontation is over, which makes me mad at myself because I’m always so smart after the fact.
I’ve got to get better at standing up for myself, if only because I need to be a better example to my girls.