So the car I bought to replace the car that was wrecked to replace the car that unexpectedly died didn’t work out. (Don’t ask!)
But the process of getting an offer to return it for full purchase price – almost a month after buying it – was instructive.
My phone conversation with the individual who sold me the car was going nowhere. People whose coping style is to interrupt, bluster loudly and argue with everything you say are unlikely to change that pattern abruptly, especially when they are trying to get their way. The appropriate thing to do is to end the conversation, and that is what I did.
The second thing to do is remember that while you are never in charge of what another person will do, you are always in charge of what you will do. In this important sense, you are always in charge.
After the phone conversation I did some research. I started with my auto insurance company, which directed me to the Investigation Unit of the Department of Motor Vehicles. I contacted that office, did some fact-finding, and wrote a highly concrete, completely non-emotional letter to the car dealer detailing the steps that I planned to take, the order in which I intended to take them, and the date and time at which I would put my plan into action.
The offer to buy back the car came less than an hour later.
Covenant-Based Conflict Resolution© – the toolkit of processes I teach and use with individuals, couples, congregations, and communities – doesn’t require only offering empathy. Sometimes self-expression is the key.
There are even times when empathy is not a part of the process, except internally.
I can remain aware that this particular car salesman’s approach, which I would judge to include duplicity, intimidation and manipulation, arose in response to his own woundedness, and I can mourn that. On the deepest level of our shared humanity, he remains my brother. That is valuable for me to always remember.
I still don’t have to let him get away with cheating me. It’s not even good for him.
Pursuing solutions that benefit everyone doesn’t mean solutions that everyone will like.
I didn’t know that I would get the response I did, but I knew the most empowering move would be focusing on what I could do rather than on what the other person might or might not agree to.
You don’t have to try to control what someone else will do to improve your situation.
Express yourself clearly. Stay connected to what matters to you. Stay grounded in the choices that are yours to make. State your limits and intentions.
You may or may not get what you want, but you can definitely get peace of mind.
And when, without accusations or rancor, you simply take your stand in what you intend to do, there is also a better than average chance of a breakthrough.
You are in charge. You just haven’t realized it yet.
With You on the Path,