Do you remember the book entitled: All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten? Anyone who has been a parent or worked with children knows the experience of instructing them about taking turns.
When there is only one toy or one swing, only one child can enjoy it at a time. Each child must learn to put the other child first. Without knowing, they give to each other a gift. It is a gift of freedom to play and laugh or use the toy without someone else demanding their own way NOW.
Though not always easy to accept, it is nevertheless one of those vitally important Kindergarten lessons to learn for all of life. Perhaps nowhere do we as adults need to re-learn this lesson than when it comes to conflict. Here’s what I mean:
A week ago I was standing in line at the security check point coming back from seeing my son in Miami. A couple began arguing behind me. The wife asked the husband to do something for her before they got to the checkpoint. His immediate reply was: “I did already.” And her reply right back was: “No, you didn’t.” And his: “Yes I did.” I grew dizzy as I continued to listen: “No you didn’t!” “Yes I did!” “No you DIDN’T!” “YES I DID!” The wife then tried with great intensity to explain further, and before 5 seconds were up, he jumped in again saying he HAD done what she asked.” That started another round of volley back and forth over the conflict net. It would have been rather humorous to most passing by, but to a marriage counselor like myself, it was painful! Finally, she simply said, “fine, whatever.”
Beautiful conversation, right? NOT! But so very typical!
What went wrong? I could point out several things, but one thing is for sure: they weren’t practicing what they learned in kindergarten. They weren’t taking turns! Neither person allowed the other an opportunity to fully explain before they jumped in with their own response. That would have required a mutual respect where each one in turn chose to give ear first to the other. Truth be known, it is an act of selflessness that is not only hard for 5 year olds but for us adults as well!
Almost universally when people are in conflict, they do not give each other the time or attention needed to fully understand what the other is thinking or feeling. Unfortunately, rather than give another our ears, we are far more prone to give them our words. (Tweet this.) And when both parties do the same, the conflict rarely gets resolved. Matters instead go from bad to worse.
SO–this week, here is a simple challenge:
1. Take turns as you give your ear first to the other. It will require that you bite your tongue and put all your thoughts, feelings, and reactions up on a shelf–not forever, but for at least a brief period of time.
2. When it is your turn to listen, give your full attention to the other as you seek to clearly understand their perspective. Don’t assume you know what they are saying.
(Never mind the movie clip blooper at the beginning! We still have much to learn about the tech side of things! LOL!)
We MUST learn to hear the heart of the other, but it will never happen if we don’t respect each other enough to first give them our ears and listen well.
Finally, when you give your ears to listen to your spouse or your children, you are modeling to them what love looks like.
Practice GIVING this week and you will be well on your way to learning what it takes to not only resolve conflict but to learn from each and every experience!
What else did you learn in kindergarten about getting along with others? Leave a comment below!