I have used the expression “the straw that broke the camel’s back” or a similar idiom when referring to an incident that pushes an ongoing situation too far across a line of tolerance. I didn’t know the derivation of this particular expression and when I looked it up I found the meaning is consistent with this same notion.
According to Wikipedia, the straw that broke the camel’s back is from an Arabic proverb about "how a camel is loaded beyond its capacity to move or stand”. It is a “reference to any process by which cataclysmic failure (a broken back) is achieved by a seemingly inconsequential addition, a single straw. This also gives rise to the phrase ‘the last/final straw’, used when something is deemed to be the last in a line of unacceptable occurrences.” A similar proverb is “the drop that makes the cup overflow”.
Most of us have likely encountered situations in which something that seems innocuous triggers off a noxious outcome. At this point we may blurt out words we cannot take back or otherwise react in ways that leave some sort of damage. This week’s blog invites you to consider a situation when this has happened to you, as you answer the following ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions):
What is the situation? What was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for you in that interaction?
What more specifically made that the breaking point?
How did you react?
What happened as a consequence?
What sorts of things had built up for you and between you that resulted in that outcome?
At what point may it have been advantageous for you to save the straw from being the one- more-time or one-last-thing in the situation?
What could you have done at that time?
What stopped you from doing or saying that?
When you have observed “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for someone else, how would you describe what occurred?
What do you think has to happen in the future to prevent the camel’s back from breaking?
What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?
Cinnie Noble is a certified coach (PCC) and mediator and a former lawyer specializing in conflict management coaching. She is the author of two coaching books: Conflict Management Coaching: The CINERGY™ Model and Conflict Mastery: Questions to Guide You.