Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fight Nice

"Fight nice, kids."

Who didn't hear those words coming from a seemingly calm Mother seated in the front passenger seat of the car, directed to the children duking it out in the back seat? What exactly does fight nice mean? Does it mean no punches in the general face area? Does it mean no kidney shots? Does it really mean that you are allowed to fight but there are certain guidelines in place? Now, years later, coming from a place located in the passenger seat of the car I know that "fight nice" really means "knock it off" and "you know better"!

There's something in us that wants to fight. We feel like if we don't stand up for ourselves we will end up being trampled with our faces shmushed in the dirt. We fight because we feel our points are valid and that we need to be heard. We fight because we believe that we are right and that the people we fight against are wrong. We fight because if we don't, we're not sure how to communicate what we feel. Those feelings may be valid and probably need to be voiced in some way, but we defend and clench our fists instead of communicating our thoughts and emotions in ways that don't tear down. For most of us, we have been socialized to the point that we no longer throw physical punches, but our words can almost have the same affect. Fighting with words, in my humble opinion can have more devastating affects! My question is, is there an alternative to 'The Fight'?

One of my absolute favorite television shows is "Parks and Recreation" with Amy Poehler. It's one of those that you either love or hate. I love it because of the dry humor and that I feel like I know the people in it.The issues that the characters face are mostly about relationships. Amy Poehler's character, Leslie Knope, works in public service, the parks and recreation department of her city. For almost any issue regarding parks people have issues, usually that have nothing to do with parks. In every "town hall" meeting there never fails to be these crazy people that stand up and say something that has nothing to do with the real issue at hand. It's good for a laugh, but in reality this is the "fighting spirit" rising to the surface. I find it interesting that  people everywhere are the same. There is history, personal experiences, feelings of nostalgia, and resistance to change that rise up in all of us that create an urge to do something. We want to preserve what we like or prefer and if something is being presented that we don't like or prefer we fight against it...to the death.

Life is full of things that we disagree on. There's a meeting happening in my community today that addresses an issue that has many differing views. No two people will think exactly the same way on it or any other issue. I believe that this fact: our differing opinions, is what makes us unique. I also believe that fighting for our point of view will never draw us close together or help us to solve the problem. In every relationship there are things that come up that we feel strongly about. Is this really an opportunity to put on the gloves and get in our respective corners and have it out? Will that solve it? Will the carnage be worth it? Will relationships still stand when the dust settles? In no way am I saying to avoid the things that need to be talked about, the white elephants are there for everyone to see. What I am proposing is that we see the people that we are disagreeing with as people like us, people with thoughts and ideas and emotions. We need to see these people with value...value that exceeds our opinions, even our brilliant and witty retorts. These people are the people that we work beside. These people are the people that we sit next to at the hockey rink, cheering on our kids. These people are the people that we promised to "love, honor and cherish" and we lay our heads down on the same bed every night. These people are the people poking us in the ribs in the back seat of a 1982 Grand Marquis. These people are the people that cared enough about us tell us, in a roundabout way, that fighting isn't the answer. These people are not our enemies. These people are our community, our family.

Things that I am learning:
Communicate...without attitude or agendas or sarcasm.(No eye rolling!!)
Listen...with understanding (without defending your point of view).
Respond...with kindness and respect, with the true value that you see in that person.
If you are 'disagreeing' with your spouse, talk it out while holding hands.(It's hard to touch someone that you love and let your words come out like daggers!!)

Fighting nice is not about taking the cheap shots that you can technically get away with. Truly fighting nice is about growing up and being able to shake a person's hand, in genuine good will and with a smile on your face knowing that you may never agree. It's gonna be okay...breathe!