Alright, I am mad really mad. What am I mad about? Arguments between spouses that have nothing to do with anything but a power struggle! I recently heard about a couple who were arguing about how something went. If the event could be verified, like which horse won the race, then that is fine. You have an objective source. But if it is based on opinion or point of view, then there is no right or wrong answer. It is like when a policeman interviews three witnesses at the scene of a car accident or a crime. Each witness will tell a different story based on where he or she stood at the moment the incident occurred.
One person's story is not only based on viewpoint, but on internal filters based on that person's values and beliefs. Each of us filters out what we have no reference for and we let in what is consistent with our values and beliefs. A simple example is when someone gets a compliment that they perceive to be false. The person receiving the compliment will dismiss it, either verbally or inwardly. Steven Covey refers to this phenomenon as the inner “map”.
Each person has a different map. Some maps may more closely match than others and that is when you may find yourself agreeing with that person more often than not. Regardless of whether my map closely matches another’s or not, if I choose to express my opinion about what my experience was of an incident, then my opinion needs to be respected. I also need to allow others’ the right to express their opinions. Other people have the right to try to make me angry too. The key word here is try. Someone can insult me and I can choose to get angry right back. I can yell and tell them to stop or call them names, but that only creates more fighting and makes me look like an idiot. I can calmly respond with comments such as: “You have a right to your opinion”, “other people might agree with you”, “You can insult me all day if you want to”, etc. The person who is trying to make me angry will get frustrated and stop. This way I come out the winner and the other person ends up looking like an idiot. Of course I don’t say anything like that to the insulter.
So the way to get somebody to stop driving you nuts is simply to agree with them in the heated moment! This takes a little cleverness, awareness and a letting go of pride.
Karen Hayes taught this same principle in her anger management class. One young man had to come back the next week for another class. He told Karen, “I tried that and it worked! A few days ago, I pulled up into the parking lot of a store. The guy I beat up, which was the reason I was court-ordered to take these classes in the first place, pulled his car into the same parking lot and got out. My window was down and he came over with his arm in a cast and leaned his head in and started ranting at me, saying things like: You did this to me. You broke my arm. You beat me up for no reason. I simply agreed with him and said, ‘You are right, I did.’ He kind of looked at me funny and then went on. ‘You did this… and that…’ I continued to be calm and he just got frustrated and walked away.”
Karen asked the young man, “Did that work for you? Did you feel like you won that one?” He replied with enthusiasm, “Yes, I did!” We all like to be winners, right? Try this out and see how it works for you.
A long time ago, Jesus taught the same principle: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison." Matt. 5: 25