If there’s an inflammatory word that can set a difficult conversation on fire it’s the word fair, in all its variations: “I don’t think this is fair” “You aren’t treating this situation according to proper standards of fairness” or “This is a fair offer”.
I’ve noticed that when my frustration increases in a conversation, I’m always tempted to use the fairness card.
Most of the time this is an indication that I’m trying to get into a more palatable version of “I’m right and you’re wrong”.
Let's say I’m dealing with a frustrating situation with a service provider, and I think I’m not getting what I want and what I’ve paid for, more often than not I use the fairness argument.
And I can tell you something: it never works.
It’s always made the other person more angry or disengaged, and I’ve ended up having to make a big effort to reconnect and re-engage them in the conversation.
The interesting point here is that even though I know it doesn’t work, I still keep doing it.
Because we are all wired that way.
Our brains don’t easily give up the temptation to achieve the golden standard of vanity: never admit to failure or that you’re wrong.
Come on, make a list of the different ways your sneaky brain tries to engineer you into an “I’m right” position.
Here are some examples:
- “This is unfair.”
What your vain brain may be trying to say is “You’re not being fair to me. I haven’t done anything wrong. Don’t you see that you’re the one who’s wrong?”
- Or this one: “Moral and ethical standards are being compromised here.”
What your righteous brain may be trying to say is “Please check your ethical standards; mine are obviously superior.”
- Or this innocent statement: “There’s a bigger picture here.”
What your superior brain may be trying to say is “You can’t see the bigger picture, but I can, because I’m very smart and obviously you're not”.
- And what about this one? “Certain issues need to be considered.”
What your vain brain may be trying to say here is “You can’t see details that are quite clear to me. I know. I’m amazing”.
And then our brain is all surprised when people don’t answer along the lines of:
“Sure, I can see now that my moral standards are rubbish. Thanks for helping me with this!”
Difficult conversations are not just difficult because of the topic we need to discuss or people's personality traits. Our vain and righteous brain sometimes contribute to turn something that is difficult into a confrontation.
Consider this before blaming somebody else.