html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I can't even see the box from here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I can't even see the box from here.

Years ago, in mediation class, we took a personality quiz to determine our conflict styles. As I expected, I was a profound avoider. At our next class, the teacher grouped us with our own types to do an exercise. The set-up was that we were on a board of directors for a company. An old friend, who happened to be on the board of directors for the rival company, called up to say that there was a opportunity that would bring large benefits to both companies if only the companies could overcome their historical squabbling and work together. Because of the rivalry, this offer couldn’t be made formally; the friend was using our personal relationship see whether there was a way to use the opportunity.

The assignment was to figure out how you would bring this opportunity to the rest of the board. The hypothetical included profiles of the other board members. One was argumentative but influential; if you won her over, everyone would follow. A couple were mild-mannered followers. One would want tons of information to make a decision, but had a reputation for being open-minded. There were a couple others I don’t remember now.

So we sat in a circle in class, the rest of the avoiders and me. Should we give a presentation at the next board meeting? Should we round up supporters first? Which ones? We spent ten, fifteen minutes fidgeting and deciding whom to approach first. We were getting tense, but not from the discussion. As I remember, there was no disagreement at all about how to approach the other board members. We all thought exactly the same about approaching people in order from mild to scary. We still felt worse and worse until I said “Or, we could not approach any of them and not call our friend back.” Oh, the smiles of relief. Of course. That’s what we’ll do.


Blogger Noel said...

Yikes. As a fellow avoider I've tried hard to eliminate this trait. Your story is a great illustration of why avoidance is really bad thing.

BTW, which box can't you see?

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a very close friend who said she loved being a lawyer, except for all the fighting.

That always seemed a little off somehow.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Did you take it with Debbie Perschbacher?

I think I ended up picking the compromiser traits, deliberately ignoring my avoider traits. We weren't grouped with our "types," just with random other people. We had an exercise where we got points according to how much we got for ourselves, and I gave up every point I possibly could. That was a valuable lesson for me -- my classmates had profited at my expense. I figured I wouldn't want someone like me on my side. (Too bad I didn't figure this out until my third year of law school.)

12:36 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Naw, Laura Farrow, who was freakin' excellent.

How did I not know that we went to the same school? You knew that? I didn't recognize your picture; did we overlap? You didn't tell me you were real.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Oh holy shit! I just Googled her name, to be sure I spelled it right and found her obituary. She was an incredible person. Wow. Saddened.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Oh, that's too bad. She must have been gone by the time I got there. I was there 1998-2001; if we were there at the same time I wasn't aware.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Really? I must have been one year behind you. Too bad we didn't meet.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Noel said...

Anonymous, your friend simply needs to work in a legal system that isn't adversarial (i.e. an inquisitorial system). I believe France has such a system. Of course she'd have to retrain, and relocate, and possibly learn the language, but that's a small price for happiness, no?

1:09 AM  

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