Monday, July 21, 2008


Perhaps this isn't the subject you'd be looking for after a month-long break from blogging. But it has been a subject that has been on my mind since my visit with the family in June.

My oldest sister and I had several long talks, which we hadn't done since our childhood in the sixties. I reminisced about how Mom and Dad (Requiescant in Pacem) used to view solving conflicts.

This brought us to a childhood query I had made about brushing my teeth. I asked Mom if I should wet the toothbrush first and then apply the toothpaste or vice versa. She took one view, I don't remember which now. Since she didn't actually give me a reason why this was correct, I decided to ask Dad. He gave the opposite answer, again with no compelling reason for it.

This puzzled me no end, simpleton that I was. I tried to get one or both of them to give me reasons for their different answers. This only made each of them annoyed and all the more assertive about the correctness of their position.

And, I believe, this is because they were raised to see all conflicts as win/lose contests. This is also known as zero-sum games. The object of getting me to agree with them was to avoid a loss to the other parent. Reason was only a tool for rationalizing one's position. If it worked, great. If it didn't, ignore it. But winning was everything and the loser was a zero.

This is a seriously defective way to frame all conflict. I do admit some conflict is effectively a win/lose situation. But much of it isn't. We need to keep this is mind when our blood pressure and the decibels start rising.

And, by the way, ever since our childhood, we both wet the toothbrush before and after applying the toothpaste.

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