When Cavemen Throw Rocks

“Seek first to understand then to be understood” is an old Covey-ism. I cannot stress enough how true I have found this to be. Whether you are dealing with colleagues, parents, or children, it is essential to getting past roadblocks.

Earlier today, we were talking about the civil (or rather, uncivil) discourse in the country right now.

It reminded me of a time when my store managers were not getting along well with our Help Desk. A store manager would call me and tell me how the Help Desk wasn’t solving their problem, no matter how many times they called. Then I’d call the Help Desk Manager and he would tell me that the store manager wasn’t cooperating when they called her back; so of course he couldn’t solve her problem.

I felt like I was watching two cavemen. They’d start by telling each other something and, when that didn’t work, they’d raise their voices, then they’d yell at each other.

Then one would poke the other in the chest and the other would poke back and they’d both take a step back, out of arm’s reach. Then they’d holler at each other again and take another step back. And another and another, hollering all the while. Every now and then one of them would pick up a rock and toss it at the other and then they’d both take another step back.

Pretty soon, they’d have backed away from each other, dug a ditch and built a wall, across which they’d hurl insults and lob boulders and logs.

I got tired of being in the middle of this game and used to get them on the phone together and ask questions to help me (and the other person) understand the situation and why they were acting the way that they were to each other, until they came to a common understanding. After a while, they got to the point where they could do it without me, and I stopped getting phone calls.

I listened to a great example of that today (a family matter, well done, sweetie).

I encourage you all to do more of this right now, with people who provoke you. I know it’s hard. I know what they say will make you angrier and angrier at first. But eventually, if you both work really hard, you’ll stop tossing boulders at each other, tear down the wall, fill in the ditch, and go back to getting along.

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