We all have blind spots. There are things we intentionally ignore and things that we unintentionally ignore. How do those blind spots impact our reaction to conflict?
Willful blindness can be defined as when “there is an opportunity for knowledge, and a responsibility to be informed, but it is shirked.” See “Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril,” by Margaret Heffernan. You may see this in parents who see only the best in their children, or spouses who see only the best in their spouses, or managers who see only the best in their favorite employees. “Oh, s/he would never do something like that!” they exclaim, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The opposite can also happen. If you already dislike someone, and are presented with evidence that the person did a good thing, willful blindness may cause you to completely disregard it or say, “I don’t believe it,” or, “They must have an ulterior motive.” You may see this in parents who target a particular child, or former romantic partners, or employees who are mobbing another employee.
Much of the time, though, the blindness isn’t even willful. In “The Power of Habit,” Charles Dugigg talks about how Febreze’s first marketing attempts failed miserably, due to “nose blindness.” People who lived in chronically smelly homes did not know that they lived in chronically smelly homes. With constant exposure, they became desensitized to the scent. Without the scent, there was not even an opportunity for knowledge.
You can have blind spots as a result of desensitization in a lot of areas. Some people live in clutter and just do not see it. Some people live in chaos and do not recognize it. Whatever your version of “normal” is makes you blind to certain things. It can make you blind to dysfunction, sexism, racism, homophobia, bullying, discrimination, domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, and so much more. It can also make you blind to peace, acceptance, and functional relationships.
What are your blind spots?
Take a step back and look at your house as if you were looking at it for the first time, as if someone else lived there. What do you see?
Think about your favorite people. Do they have certain negative attributes that you overlook because you like them so much?
Think about your least favorite people. Do they have certain qualities that you dismiss because you’re more comfortable seeing them in a negative light?
Are your blind spots contributing to an increase in conflict in your relationship with one or more people?
Are your blind spots allowing you to avoid conflict in a relationship with one or more people?
Now that you are aware of some of your blind spots, are there any changes you would like to make?
In my small town of Kittery, Maine, we have received 3.5 feet of snow in the past couple weeks. One might think that was enough snow for a month, for a winter, or for a lifetime. I might agree with those assessments. And, yet, Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has decided that what we really need is another foot of snow.
And, so, I am at home, with my third snow day in three weeks.
At this stage in my life, I am not a fan of winter. Each winter, I must move through the four stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Sorrow, and Acceptance.
I start by finding ways to work around winter. I stay inside to avoid it. I jog on the warmer days.
These past couple of weeks have created a winter that is impossible to work around, if you want to be outside. Winter is everywhere. The temperature is averaging 10 – 20 degrees lower than usual. Mounds of snow cover the sidewalks and crowd the roads. Many of the town roads are blanketed in snow. Driving is treacherous. Jogging is even more so.
I haven’t been able to jog in over a week.
A couple weekends ago, a friend asked me to go snowshoeing. I agreed because I felt that I should, then I cancelled at the last minute when the temperature had not risen above single digits.
Another friend asked me to go snowshoeing this past weekend. I refused, explaining, “I HATE WINTER. To go snowshoeing would be a celebration of that which I hate most.” There’s a little anger for you.
So, two days ago, there I was, at my home, depressed and angry. I needed some exercise. I needed some time outside. I just didn’t want it to be here under these conditions with another snowstorm on the way.
I decided that it was time to move toward acceptance. I suited up, got my dog and my snowshoes, and headed for the Kittery Town Woods. I chose not to bring any of my human friends, as I didn’t know how long I was actually going to last in this endeavor.
I started out grumbly. I felt my spirits lifting with the exercise, nature, and blue sky, and yet, still I fought any feeling of happiness. By the end, though, after an hour, I had to admit that I felt better. I returned home and texted a friend, “I have officially embraced winter. Went snowshoeing today.”
Yesterday, I had a new perspective on winter. The latest storm had come. There was a good 3-4 inches of fresh powder and more was scheduled to fall later in the day. I geared up, grabbed my snowshoes, and headed out again with my dog as my companion. We played in the snow and it felt good. I had moved to acceptance.
Winter is not a human adversary, but it is my adversary, none the less. When I hear that it is coming, I am filled with dread. I develop strategies to work around it, hoping to spend as little time with it as possible. It is only when I accept it for what it is that I can truly enjoy it and celebrate it.
Sometimes, in life, resistance is futile. You can try to be the unstoppable force and find yourself stopped. You can try to be the immovable object and find yourself moved.
What would happen if you moved, for even a moment, toward acceptance of your adversary? What if you saw your adversary for all that she, he, or it is – the ugly, the bad, but also the good?
You may not celebrate or even embrace your adversary, but you may move toward the peace of acceptance.
Kym Dakin has a new game out for groups looking to process a difficult issue. It's called Shift P.O.V. and it's available for sale here.
Shift P.O.V. is a nice reminder that there are 3 types of people when it comes to change: 1. Activators, 2. On the Fence, and 3. Skeptics. Often, we can forget that there is any "normal" type other than the one that resonates with us.
I am an Activator. I love change. I even love change for the sake of change.
My husband is a Skeptic. He hates change. He is a creature of habit and he loves his routines.
We're both too opinionated to be On the Fence too long about anything.
When it comes to change, we can drive each other crazy. I want to jump right in and he wants to just stay put.
When we're at our best, when we are respectfully speaking to each other about a potential change, recognizing that we each come from very different perspectives on the issue, we can have amazing, rich conversations. He is able to see complications that I would either 1. never see or 2. happily ignore or 3. have already developed a work-around for and we can discuss how best to handle those complications. I am able to see opportunities that he would either 1. never see or 2. happily ignore or 3. have already decided aren't worth the risk involved in the change and we can discuss those opportunities in greater detail.
When we are not at our best, Shift P.O.V. has tools that could serve as a gentle reminder on how to get back there. There are Random Factor cards that require you to physically move (which can help with processing and also with relieving tension). There are Random Factor cards that ask you questions designed to engage your human brain (as opposed to the reptilian brain that is in control when we are triggered). And there are Random Factor cards that help you to intellectually process what is happening (again, engaging your human brain as opposed to your reptilian brain).
Shift P.O.V. requires you to take on another person's point of view and discuss the issue from that angle. Although it's designed for use with a facilitator in a work setting, it could be used in a work setting without an outside facilitator with some work-arounds. It also could be used by a couple or a family to have a difficult conversation, though it would take more tweaking.
I invite you to take a look today.
I was a recent guest on Beth Myers' new radio show, Conflict, broadcasting each week out of Portland, Maine. We talked about how any change that you make in your life may cause conflict with those around you when you disrupt their patterns of behavior. While you can mitigate this to some extent by having conversations before and during the change process, if you are in a relationship with a person who does not like change and/or who looks to control others, this can lead to significant conflict. You can listen to the show here.