I once mediated a dispute with a large tarantula eyeing me the entire time from the shoulder of a participant.
It was unsettling. As, I suppose, it was intended to be.
The case was a dispute between three middle-aged siblings locked in combat over their father’s will. The siblings had more than half a century of baggage between them, compounded by two years of litigation since dad died, and I was asked by their attorneys to get the matter resolved before lunch.
Two of the siblings arrived without incident. The third was late. Her attorney looked annoyed. There was polite chit-chat as we all waited.
Finally the door swept open. In walked the sister. Bright red lipstick, much eye makeup, long – very long – bright red nails. An outfit designed to demand attention, anywhere, anytime. But really, who could digest the outfit with the spider staring at you?
It was easily three inches in diameter, and would fill a man’s palm. A crouched, black metal and rhinestone spider pinned to the shoulder of her blouse like a pet bird might perch.
Now that’s quite a statement, I thought to myself.
You know, we make statements all the time when we’re locked in disagreement with someone. Most of our statements aren’t as flashy and frightening as a rhinestone tarantula, but we convey all sorts of things that hinder instead of help: Disdain. Dismissal. Rigidity. Self-righteousness. Self-satisfaction.
Just like I wished I’d been with that woman when she dressed herself that morning, I want us to take off our own tarantulas just long enough to give the conflict conversation a chance to unfold differently.
Photo credit: iloveexperiment626