Lee Cataluna: Just go talk to the guy
Soon the 2019 legislative session will open, the Honolulu City Council will, hopefully, have all members officially seated and ready to rumble, and the news cycle will turn to a fresh spate of bills regulating behavior that people could pretty much deal with on their own if only everyone had better social skills.
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Soon the 2019 legislative session will open, the Honolulu City Council will, hopefully, have all members officially seated and ready to rumble, and the news cycle will turn to a fresh spate of bills regulating behavior that people could pretty much deal with on their own if only everyone had better social skills. People want laws to force other people not to be jerks, cops get called for neighborhood tiffs and small slights turn into boiling rage on social
media before anyone even says something in person.
How many issues rise up like flares and get debated for hours in the halls of government that should actually be handled in friendly backyard get-togethers or what used to be called “coffee table diplomacy,” or just politely but directly speaking
to a stranger?
Too many. People don’t talk anymore. They rage-tweet, litigate, legislate.
Talking about a problem is hard. Telling someone that their behavior is bothering you is difficult without getting angry about it or sounding like a snowflake.
Yet little children are trained in conflict resolution. They’re taught how to deal with playground disagreements, and they practice the basics of diffusing a situation. If a kindergartner can speak her mind and another kindergartner can listen and the two can figure out a mutually agreeable solution, then grown-ups should be able to conduct themselves accordingly without running to a lawyer or a City Council member or some weary state representative who really doesn’t want to get involved.
Little kids are told to “use their words” because the
human voice, when sincere and unburdened by anger, works to smooth over so many conflicts.
“Excuse me, could you not leaf-blow your leaves into my yard? I’ll come over and help you rake if you want. How about we start later this afternoon? Six-thirty on a Sunday morning is kinda early for blowing leaves, right? But since we’re both up, want some coffee and Portuguese sausage omelet?”
Sounds pretty ridiculous. Who approaches conflict that way? The other guy is probably going to be a total jerk.
But there’s the other part of it. An expectation that the other party will respond thoughtfully and a community commitment to hear others’ concerns without taking umbrage. Learning to listen and choosing not to be offended are crucial to the process, as is letting go of smaller disputes in the
interest of a larger harmony.
What if grown-up conflicts were more like this:
“Excuse me. Hi. I wanted to know if my dog will bother you if we sit out here and eat lunch at this next table.”
“Thanks for asking. Yes, actually, I have a fear of dogs ever since I was bitten as a child. Do you mind?”
“Oh, no, not at all. We’ll find another spot.”
“Thanks for understanding.”
A scene like that, all peaceful and mutually respectful, seems almost creepy in its unreality.
But it’s less creepy than taking a sneaky cellphone photo and posting it to social media with a blistering rant targeting someone who might not even realize they got in your way.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.