Nuggets of practical wisdom can jump out from unexpected people, places, events and things. They may come by leaps and bounds through a brief conversation with the garbage collector, a visit to a thickly populated slum area, spilled five-dollar-worth coffee, or the children show your kids usually watch. I found some from the latter.
While watching Arthur with my kids one afternoon, I was fed with some essential truths about insecurity-triggered conflict. Arthur is an educational television series about Arthur Reed, an anthropomorphic aardvark, and his friends. If you have kids, you are probably familiar with the show's famous line, "Everyday when you're walking down the street, and everybody that you meet has an original point of view!"
In two related episodes (Mr. Always Right and A is for Angry), Brain, the brightest in Arthur's class, irked his classmates because of his exceptional brilliance. In the Mr. Always Right episode, Arthur’s best friend Buster pestered Brain with questions after questions in the hope that he would make a mistake. In the A is for Angry episode, Arthur’s classmates Muffy and Francine encouraged him to challenge Brain in a checkers contest. All of the students in Mr. Ratburn’s class except for George thought Brain was being conceited and they should make him feel he was not that special.
Brain handled both situations with cool: he gave Mr. Ratburn a wrong answer during a recitation in class sending Buster in a celebratory mood and conceded in the checkers match with grace. In the last scene for both episodes, the camera showed a relaxed Brain, enjoying ice cream with Buster and his Mom and reading his favorite book while playing checkers with Arthur.
Conflict Resolution Brain Style
First essential truth: if feeding the egos of your silent and vocal critics would not hurt or diminish your character, give them what they want – show them that you err as much as they do. And like Brain, you can relax and be at peace while they devour the bad news causing you to chuckle and celebrate as well.
According to Working Dynamics, a number of surveys indicated that the most uncomfortable, stress-producing parts of work relations for people in all occupations were interpersonal conflicts. The consulting firm estimated that more than 65 percent of performance problems resulted from strained relationships between people — not from deficits in skill or motivation. By managing an insecurity-triggered conflict appropriately, Brain saved himself from distress while clutching peace of mind and saving his relationship with his classmates at the same time.
Brain's response is the practical application of Shannon L. Alder's maxim, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't being said. The art of reading between the lines is a life long quest of the wise.” Brain analyzed the message behind his classmates’ annoyance of him: their standard of brilliance is determined by how far they could knock him down. Brain read between the lines and managed to pull off responses that won his classmates and the viewers’ respect. He was indeed the Brain, the wisest in the class.
Brain’s approach to conflict resolution is easier to carry out when you know your average faultfinder as a person. Brain knew that his classmates were not cruel. Rather, they are people comfortable with their being average that an existence of an above-average Brain means disruption of their make-believe reality. In a global human capital report, CPP attributed 49 percent of conflict to personality clashes and warring egos. This means that if you want to approach ego-driven conflict, you have to be like a warrior preparing and training for a lifetime warfare. And like Brain, you can eradicate multiple combatants with one well-executed strike.
It does not feel right to be on the receiving end of unfounded criticisms, especially when you know your critics are but feeding their own insecurities. Resembling Brain’s approach, you can choose to rise above discouraging situations by resisting the temptation to answer criticisms with criticisms. Essentially, Brain’s conflict resolution approach is about protecting your self-esteem by helping your committed faultfinders build theirs.
Other Healthy Responses
For all those who are familiar with Arthur, you know that Brain has a healthy relationship with his classmates. The pursuit of Arthur's class to find fault at or shame Brain is at its best on children's passion level. They apologized and stopped when they realized their mistakes. In general, everyone respects and admires Brain.
This, however, may not be the case for the grown-ups. There could be lashing out and no letting up with the adults. Their passion level is, of course, at adult’s level. According to Harris Interactive, young adults age 18 to 33 accounted relationships as one of the top 3 causes of stress at 59 percent. The market research firm conducted the survey for the American Psychological Association.
Second essential truth: Being visited by insecurity from time to time is normal. Anyone has periods of sheer insecurity. However, when someone takes a constant swipe at another just because the person stands out from the rest, it becomes a problem needing immediate attention. The average classmates are now the average bees ready to sting, and if you are the target, you should by all means protect yourself. In any case a sting becomes toxic, you can do any or a combination of the options below:
1.) Terminate The Relationship. This is a pretty straightforward approach. Be as civil as possible, but cut off the communication and/or connection when needed. The long-term harm of a negative relationship is not worth it.
2.) Learn how to handle the person. When you choose to preserve the relationship, find common grounds. Do more of those activities that bring out the best in each other and avoid those, which do not.
3.) Surround yourself with supportive people. Spend more time with people who appreciate your strengths and are capable of giving an honest assessment of yourself including the great, the worst and the ugly.
If you are currently wearing Brain shoes, be as calm and as wise in your handling of needless and unfounded attacks. Kiss and makeup if possible. When faultfinding crosses the line of defamation, slander or libel, you have the choice to make it right through the legal system. At the end of the day, what important is, you are secure about yourself and the ground you stand.
Unbound Jealousy and Insecurity
According to Psychology Today, jealousy encompasses many different kinds of feelings. These feelings can bring about by a perceived third-party threat to a valued relationship, competition over a parent or a boss’s attention, or bitterness over a friend’s new-found success. While every emotion has its role to play in our lives, jealousy usually does more harm than good. It is an ingenious designer of relationship conflict, worse, violence.
Jealousy is commonly triggered by deep insecurity or feelings of inadequacy. For some people, nitpicking may be the only way they can feel good about themselves. Seeing others on top of their game make them feel incompetent. And at this point, you can elect to use Brain’s shield and employ his approach to conflict resolution. Fending off attacks, particularly well-placed gibes that tap into your own insecurities, can get you out of focus. But take courage, you are not in Brain shoes for nothing.
Third essential truth: Unbound jealousy and insecurity should not be taken lightly. Christine Harris, the author of The Evolution of Jealousy, ranked the emotion as the third most common motive for murder. Jealousy is dubbed as the most destructive emotion stored in the human brain. And while women have the reputation and appetite for this emotion, men are as capable to elicit the same. If you value your relationship with your denigrators, or if you have little choice but to be around with them, then you have to draw healthy lines and maintain them.
Most jealousy studies have focused on adult relationships. Sibling rivalry is the closest to jealousy studies in children. In several avian species, for instance, the older sibling routinely kills the younger one especially if it is starving and not receiving enough food. This is also the case among humans. The older child, usually a toddler, displays a range of negative emotions toward a newborn by pinching or seizing his/her milk bottles and toys.
If you are in the shoes of Brain's average classmates, restrain your sting. Tame your jealousy and insecurity. You can sting as much as you want, but it will not change the fact that what you do is a reflection of yourself rather than your prey. Additionally, you may find yourself either in jail or bankrupt due to legal battles. Secure people like Brain has their own sets of weaknesses and challenges. They may not always be happy and may not have everything they want, but they are not always looking for someone to disparage or to find fault to feel and look better and smarter.
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