Are You Trying to Defy the Laws of Gravity in Your Conflict?

by Meredith Richardson
January 2017

Meredith Mediates by Meredith Richardson

Meredith Richardson

In their book, "Designing Your Life," authors Burnett and Evans talk about "gravity problems," things like gravity that you cannot change no matter how hard you try.  If you trip and fall, you fall down, not up.  That is just the way it is.  You can waste a lot of time and energy railing against gravity or you can simply accept it for what it is and figure out how to work within its parameters.

I often see people in conflict railing against what I would see as "gravity problems" in others.  They want the other person to change.  It may be in the other person's best interest to change.  However, the other person has no ability and/or no interest in changing.  That is a gravity problem, my friend.

When you see it as a gravity problem, then you can start to make better choices about how to deal with it. 

Sarah is always running late.  She has always run late.  She will always run late.  She pays lip service to wanting to be on time, usually under pressure from John who prides himself on being punctual. 

John grew up in a military family, where being 15 minutes early was on time and being on time was late.  Being late is horrible!  Sarah's tardiness drives John crazy.

When Sarah and John divorce, John wants to meet at a half-way point to exchange the children.  It should work beautifully, John thinks.  However, every time they meet, John is stuck waiting in the car for at least fifteen minutes for Sarah.  It is bad enough when he is stuck in the car by himself, but it is worse when he has two impatient children in the car with him. 

John wants Sarah to just be on time.

John has a gravity problem.  He can want Sarah to be on time all he wants, but that is not going to get Sarah to be on time.  Sarah is who she is.  If he couldn't get her to be timely when they were together, he certainly won't be able to get her to do it when they are apart.

If John doesn't like waiting for Sarah in the car, then he can ask to change the way that transportation is handled so that they each pick up the children from each other at the parent's home.  That way, the children are always waiting at a home, never in a car, for the other parent.

He can ask to change transportation so that they each drop off to each other.  That still might result in occasionally waiting in the car with the kids for Sarah to get home, like if she had plans right before.  However, most of the time, she will likely be home.

If John really does not want to stop meeting at a half-way point, he can intentionally arrive at the half-way point fifteen minutes later than the designated time.  That will make him more likely to arrive about the same time that Sarah does.

Look at a conflict that you have with someone.  Do you have a gravity problem?  Are you trying to defy the laws of gravity?  What is the best that you can do with the situation, recognizing that you do not have control over gravity?

Biography


Meredith Richardson, Esq., CPC, helps people and organizations to successfully navigate conflict through mediation, conflict coaching, and training.  Though she was trained and worked as an attorney in ME, NH, and MA, she no longer self-identifies as a lawyer.  She helps people to have difficult conversations successfully.

Meredith is well-respected by her peers, and has served on both the Maine Association of Mediators Board and the NH Conflict Resolution Association Board.  With an office in Maine, she is readily available for work in Maine, NH, and Massachusetts.   



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