Pick Your Battles

When people do stupid things, are they just naturally stupid, were they taught to be stupid, do they not know that they are stupid, or are they only stupid in our eyes? Regardless of their propensity for stupidity, it may only be our perception. They may feel that they are perfectly normal.

If they surrounded themselves with like people, then they may consider themselves normal. Now we have to consider that there might be a whole population of people out there who are stupid. Or…looking from their perspective, are we the stupid people?

An old saying: “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience every time.” The lesson to learn is to ‘pick your battles.’

When in traffic and someone cuts in front, without a turn signal, and causing me to step on the brake, I’m normal and don’t like that situation. But, I just say, “He must be an important person.” I forget about it. I don’t like it. But forget about it. It’s a battle not worth engaging.

If that encounter would affect my safety or the safety of my family, then it becomes a different situation. Again, I can challenge the other vehicle, make contact, and then spend the next hour in a “he said she said’ conversation with the reporting police officer. The other option is to safely clear the encounter without contact. Family is safe and a police officer doesn’t have to fill out a report.

What about the reckless driver? If the driver is truly and intentionally an aggressive driver, sooner or later, he will have or cause an accident. That’s why we have police officers patrolling the highway. If the driver is not an aggressive driver but only needed to change lanes and didn’t see you, then we are dealing with an unintentional act. It is unlikely to happen again.

Picking Your Battle

In every battle, there are two sides and one outcome. In picking your battles, think about the personal benefit of the preferred outcome. If you could teach that bad driver a lesson, but you end up with a damaged car, loss of time and money, would the cost be justified by the outcome?

Some people simply enjoy confrontations. They seek battles and are clueless as to the possible outcome/benefits for the battle. It’s fun to watch people as they interact with other people. In a grocery line, people will stake out their territory. They will check out all the cashiers. They will estimate the cashier’s check out rate. They will assess the number of people in each line and how many items they have to check out.

After the complete assessment, (I’ll bet they use a ‘checkout assessment’ app with algorithms on their smart phone) they pick a check out line. Now they look around to see if anyone is moving into their line. The cart is in place. This is my space. They will guard it, nudge others, block intrusions, and anticipate those magic words, “you’re next.”

If I described you, don‘t feel bad. I do the same thing, too. The point is that it is not that important. I guess if you were scheduled to have open heart surgery, then it might be worth looking for the short line. But this is just people in line. Every person in the line has an agenda.

Getting through the line is just something to do in order to get where they are going. Some people had to pick up one item in order to finish fixing dinner. Another person had one item and it is their dinner. One person had one item because that was all they could afford. Another had 12 items in the ‘10 item only’ line. Where are the check-out police when you need them?

I enjoy watching people in lines. Their interaction is a function of their agenda…their destination…their vision of the next moment. You can tell by their interactions, if they are a “ME” person or a “WE” person. “ME” people focus on their needs at the expense of others. “ME” people maneuver to get in front of you. You appear like a statue to them. They will judge you without talking to you. They may even stand in front of you and tell you about themselves…how important they are. Talking to a statue is a one sided conversation…and they (not the statue) actually enjoy it.

“WE” people accomplish their needs by helping others. They see you as another person. They walk beside you and ask about you. They engage. You are an important person in their lives. “WE” people maneuver to help you get ahead.

So, what do I do when a “ME” person pushes ahead, I smile because, in their mind, they are a very important person. I believe that “ME” people will eventually come around. They are important in their own mind but they are lonely people. If they spend all their time pushing people out of their way, eventually there won’t be anyone left to push.

Pick your battles. A fellow told me one time, “Never make an unneeded enemy.” Some people love to engage simply for the encounter. When you engage in a battle, you declare an enemy. Regardless of the outcome, you have established an enemy. If you spend your time making enemies, eventually, the enemies will outnumber you. The enemies that you have created will surround you.

Whether it is a line of traffic, a line in the supermarket, or simply interacting with people we meet each day, we will engage. The outcome of the encounter will depend on how we choose to engage. Am I a “ME” or “WE” person? When we disengage, who will feel better and who will be bitter. “ME” people want someone to come away betterand someone to be bitter. The “WE” person wants both to come away feeling better.

When we can choose our battles and encounters, we should seek the outcome that will make both sides feel better. Choosing not to engage the reckless driver lets him feel better…he doesn’t know that he is stupid. He thinks stupid is normal. Choosing not to call the check out police lets the guy who can’t count or read the sign feel smart…but you know otherwise.

Tough Choices

Sometimes, we do not have a choice when trouble confronts us. In those cases, we must react. Choosing your battle is when you can respond rather than react. You have time to process the situation, the opponent, the desired outcome and the risks involved. You may have only minutes to respond but the response will be deliberate as opposed to a reaction. In most cases, you have time…hours, days, weeksto respond. Taking time to respond allows us to gather and process more information.

Our reckless driver may be rushing a sick child to the hospital. The person in the express lane may not be able to read. And the grump, who won’t smile, might not be able to smile since his stroke. Just a little more information changes our response.

So how do we choose our battles?

  1. Determine your battle flag. Do you fly the “ME” or “WE” banner?
  2. Determine the desired outcome. Remember that you can climb the fence to get away from the bull or to meet the bull. It is the same fence. It just depends on which side of the fence that you are standing. The action, climbing the fence, will be the same. Only the outcome changes.
  3. Decide how important? Do you really want to meet the bull?
  4. Determine the risk to benefit. Can I get hurt climbing the fence? If I don’t climb the fence can the bull hurt me? Do I have to climb the fence to get the desired outcome? If yes, start climbing. If no, stay put.
  5. Will I create a needed or unneeded enemy? The bull is a “ME” bull. You are either in or out of his territory.

“ME” people will talk about their conquests, the battles they have won, and the enemies yet to be vanquished. “WE” people will talk about their friends, the people they have helped, and the people they hope to meet in the future. If we strive to be a “WE” person, picking our battles will be easy.

“ME” people are always in a battle somewhere. That’s what they do. “WE” people get to choose their battles. The first step is to ask, am I a “ME” or a “WE”? Look at your flag.

Make it a great day

Dr L