Sunday, 20 March 2011

Setting the sliders 8: Giving way - standing firm

This, dear readers, is where things get more complex. Finding a balance between having your own way or giving in to the wishes of others is at the very essence of being able to live in society.

As a species, we are moving (slowly) away from simple animal heirarchies of top dogs and pecking orders. Natural deference, 'knowing one's place', knowing who to doff one's cap to, has yielded to a society based on equality and entitlement. Which has its good points and bad when it comes to social trust, but in general, human beings are living freer that ever before.

So where to find the balance? Midway, or another case of neither and both (or both at the same time)?

Let's start by looking at this dichotomy on the level of the male-female relationship, which in traditional terms could be described thus: On the one hand, a woman would like her man to be strong-willed and determined. On the other, she'd like him to do her bidding. "Stanowczy, ale poszłuszny" (firm but obedient), every woman's ideal man. Determined in the face of the outside world, malleable only to her. My mother's dictum on the two most important words in a marriage, 'yes dear!', is only partially right. The three words are 'yes, my dearest.'

So here we see the need for two separate sliders; one for facing up to the world - set further over towards "standing firm", and another one with a greater bias towards "giving way".

On what basis does this slider move?

Standing firm on the basis of logic: "My proposal makes more sense than yours. I suggest we do this". "I don't care - I still want to do it my way." But what if both parties believe in the sense of their case?

Standing firm on the basis of good vs. evil: Not yielding to bloodthirsty dictators. But what if the bloodthirsty dictator considers himself to be good, and you to be evil?

Giving way on the basis of long-term vs. short term: "If I do this for you now, you will do this for me later."

Giving way on little matters in order to stand firm on the big issues. Losing the battle to win the war.

Agreeing a compromise - give and take on both sides.

Unlike some of my early postings on a life in balance, knowing when to give way or stand firm has to be done on a case-by-case basis. So we face this particular dilemma on a daily basis, at work, at home, in the street. Knowing when to give way, but being able to stand firm. Being unable to do so leads to frustration and unhappiness, so we tend to withdraw from situations where we're likely to be faced with a humiliating stand-down.

The natural 'ladder of authority', as I call it, where the biologically and socially determined pecking order comes into play, needs to be understood. Around this, understanding the games people play (dealing with a trademan, shop assistant, service provider in such a way as not to get bamboozled into giving way) is crucial. There are many people out there whose livelihoods depend on them standing firmer than you, the customer (estate agents, used car salesmen, financial advisers etc). Those who give way too much to their customer don't make enough money for their company and don't last too long.

A far more complex issue, then, when striving to keep your life in balance.

This time last year:
Summerhouses near Okęcie

This time two years ago:
A truly British icon

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