Some disputes are worth your effort. Some are worth turning your back and walking away. How do you when to talk and when to walk?
I offer the following seven questions as an informal litmus test for you to use when you’re trying to decide:
- Can I let this go…really let it go? Sometimes you think you can let go of it, maybe even think you have, but the effects creep into your mind, your heart, or your relationship. The walls in home and work relationships build one brick at a time, after all. If you can’t really let go, or try and find it isn’t working, then there’s a message for you in that.
- If I don’t deal with this one, will it eat at a work or home relationship that is important to me? This is a slightly different version of the first question. I recommend considering both of them.
- If I confront this, what are the things I and my relationship with that person will gain? In my experience, folks considering whether or not to try to deal with a conflict have a pretty easy time catastrophizing. Dwelling on all that could go wrong prevents you from giving equal time to all you may be missing if you don’t deal.
- What is the worst that can happen if it doesn’t go well and what specific steps will I take to recover? The other problem with catastrophizing is dwelling in the muck without investing time to determine how you might get out of it. I find that when clients consider the worst case scenario and then consider concrete steps they’d take to recover, it becomes much clearer about whether it’s worth confronting the problem or letting it truly slide away for posterity.
- Are there others who stand to lose if I don’t confront this? Are there co-workers, direct reports, customers, family members, or others on whom this situation has had an impact and who would benefit, directly or indirectly, from me stepping up to the conversation?
- When I imagine myself thinking about this in a month, will this be one that counted? Will I even remember it in a month? Enough said.
- When I’m 100 and looking back at my life, will this be a dispute or a relationship that counted? I call this one my “life review litmus test.” It’s the one I use with myself and with my clients when they’re struggling with taking on a difficult conversation with a loved one or a treasured colleague.
How do you know when to talk or walk?