Uh-huh. Really? Interesting. I see. Thank you.
Last week I received an email from a friend politely expressing concern about the effects of my ‘special diet’ on my children’s health. Hmmm…
The argument against arguing
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I tend to generally take a non-confrontational approach with paleo nay-sayers. Some people roll their eyes at this, preferring to deal with things directly. There’s value to being head-on at times, certainly, but there are many situations where this isn’t appropriate or will lead to an undesirable outcome.
I find arguing my way through life takes up a disproportionate amount of my time and energy – resources that I could put to better use in other ways. I have things to do and people to see – things and people that I like and with whom and what my energies can combine to create an outcome that is larger than the individual pieces. That is where I want to spend my time. Not arguing. Perhaps you feel the same way.
Family we’re stuck with
Then there are our family members with whom we usually have to get along with. We may interact with them in person intimately and frequently and with whom we have bonds and a history that are greater than a simple connection based on personality or interests. It is best if we can at least rub along with these people. Frequent confrontation doesn’t work well in these circumstances and many family relationships can’t tolerate any type of obvious discord.
Very Important People
And then there are your Very Important People to consider – those people in your life on whom you simply and utterly depend for its smooth running. If I don’t like them, I can leave my job and fire my clients easily enough but I learned years ago that my kids’ school secretary was fundamental to my well-being. There are some people we really need to keep on-side.
Arguing causes stress and that’s definitely not paleo in my book so having a variety of weapons at our disposal for dealing with paleo skeptics will ultimately be better for our relationships, better for our own self-fulfillment, better for our family units – our kids, better for our health.
When I read this article on how to disarm a verbal aggressor, I went ‘Meh.’ The responses offered made it sound like agreement when it wasn’t and that didn’t feel honest or powerful. So, in truth, we have to find a point on the line between confrontation and capitulation that we are comfortable with.
The Tao of Paleo
That can be difficult and I thought of a question I got recently from a regular reader.
I’m in my first year of paleo/primal. I cook and eat what I want and I let my fiancé do whatever she wants. I am finding she wants to eat more and more like me without me saying anything. It’s like a slow Jedi mind trick. I’ve asked her for cupboard room and asked her to hide the candy and it has gone over surprisingly well. My current problem is when my fiancé says something like “Y’know, isn’t it great this non-paleo food is so good for you?”
It’s not junk food, just conventional “heart healthy,” low fat- high carb fare like steel cut oats, brown rice, or really, really high glycemic fruit like over-ripe mango’s, pineapple, and bananas. Sometimes it is something that is sneaky high-carb at a restaurant like a soup that has white potatoes and peas, and carrots, and some little flour dumplings or bow-tie pasta. Sometimes it is something that I know was fried in a lot of PUFA.
It drives her crazy when I say, “Well, I’m glad you like it but I don’t think it’s “good” for you and here’s why…” But if I just smile and nod my head and say “Yes, dear” I feel like a little piece of my soul dies every time. Should I just smile and endure for the sake of our relationship and wait for her to come around to the paleo side (if she chooses), or is there a more tactful and assertive way to respond?
When we try to “fix” someone else, we imply we come from a more enlightened point of view. We send a message that we are wiser, smarter. Unfortunately, this message sends an even more powerful and negative message that the other person is not “good enough.”
It amounts to rejection and as such (even in small amounts) it builds resentment, smothers affection, and creates distance. So even if we are coming from a place of love – wanting others to be healthier, happier, live longer – that isn’t what it feels like to them.
And whether someone does this to you, or you do this to someone else, if a counter-attack is launched, you are in for an argument and a relationship that has been badly damaged.
The challenge is these instances is to be aware of the cost of our actions and to decide whether that course of action is worth it. It is particularly important at times like this given that pointing out fault isn’t likely to achieve very much that’s positive. But ultimately, it depends on your personal set of values and only you can make those decisions.
1. Limit your response. Most of the time, keep your response to a ‘Uh-huh’ or other non-committal response.
2. Make the tone of your voice even and without any undue emotion.
3. Occasionally, respond directly to the comment. You decide how often. I usually counter every 3rd or 4th time, especially if they come in rapid succession. Maybe your relationship can tolerate a response more often. Or maybe less.
4. Make your feelings and viewpoint known but do it calmly. Again, don’t have any strong emotional tone in your voice.
5. Wait. Don’t respond in the moment. Delay a little, partly to take any irritation out of your voice, partly to prepare what you’re going to say and also to communicate more effectively. If you’re in the middle of preparing dinner, juggling kids, or worst of all, have other people with you, now is not the time.
6. Lead up to it. Surprises cause intense emotional reactions and if it’s a negative surprise, well, you’re likely to get a flea in your ear. So prepare them a little, not a big preamble but simply say ‘I want to address something about our conversation earlier…’
7. Use an ‘I message.’ When you start with ‘You say this or that…,’ it puts others on the defensive, they feel accused, stupid and then angry and resentful. Turn it around to say ‘I believe that…’ and then say your piece succinctly. Then pause.
8. Stop entirely if there is a poor response. Leave it alone and go back to #1.
9. If there is an interested, or otherwise positive response, have a friendly discussion. And then move on to other, more interesting, things.
To my friend’s email, I replied with a simple, ‘Thank you’ and changed the subject. I know that confronting a situation like this can easily cause a loss of face in one or both parties and that would have been counterproductive in the bigger picture. I wanted to deal with it quickly and efficiently so I could move on to other more productive activities while acting in way to save the relationship so that we, and our children, could continue to be friends.
There are some people in our lives for whom we don’t care to invest this amount of effort or consideration but most of us have relationships we want to maintain, protect and nurture. Yet we also need to stay true to ourselves. It’s a fine line but if you can tread it, you’re a smart one. And about as paleo as I think you can make it. After all, we all need a tribe to survive. Our relationships are essential.
What do you do in instances like this? Tell us in the comments!
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