Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Inaction vs. Action

A wise person said this to me recently. I think it makes a lot of sense.

A good example is voting. Choosing not to vote is also an action. It makes a statement. In choosing not to vote, you are saying that you don't care about the outcome. I can certainly understand a great deal of frustration with thepolitical system. Yet there are (almost) always other choices on the ballot. And a person can always work towards change within a political party or within a new political party. I'm thinking of the U.S. political system, in other countries/environments (like the former Soviet Union) not voting may indeed be making a clear statement.

The next question is what a "reasonable" expectation for action is, and what an unreasonable expectation is.

Even as children, many of us experienced reasonable and unreasonable expectations. I had friends who were basically forced to participate in sporting events. Others were expected to clear their plate (even when they weren't hungry).

As adults, we have yet another set of reasonable and unreasonable actions that are expected of us. The consequences become more external to our own families. If you don't pay your water bill, your water gets turned off. Is it reasonable of my children to expect me to pay the water bill so we have running water? I think so. And it's important to acknowledge some of those successes, the bare minimum that responsible adults are able to do. That's not saying that a set of desperate circumstances does happen - and parents are forced to make choices. Sometimes there are no solutions and adults and children) simply suffer.

The line between what we are entitled to, what actions we should expect from those we love and care about and what is unreasonable is blurry. It's not clear. Each person
has a different take.

One person might expect a spouse to, say, keep their car clean and free from clutter. Another person might not care. The key to this type of conflict (which I'm learning) is to communicate the expectations of action. The spouse has to say "I expect you to keep your car clean", but be willing tonegotiate. Or realize that the other person's car is their own responsibility which the spouse has no control over.

So when I don't call or keep up with friends, that is my inaction. It is making a statement. I can no longer expect that our relationship will pick up right where it left off. It may. But it's not fair of me to expect certain support or actions - when I'm also making a choice about the relationship. And people drift apart - that happens - it's a natural part of life. I have only so much energy and capabilities, as others in my life only have so much energy. And mutual respect and space is just as important to any relationship.

This is why the statement "It takes two people to have a problem" still resonates strongly with me.

The actions a person chooses are also important. To give a work analogy, does a company say "you're so valuable" and never show that a person is valued through monetary or other means? Or, another example, does a person complain all the time about having to drive another person somewhere, but never says "no" when asked? While that interaction can be difficult for some of us, confrontation and communication are still important. I can choose my battles, but when there is something very important to me, I may need to speak up. I may choose not to -
both are valid responses.

And I've realized recently, it's important to hear the sum total of what someone says. And to understand what they are not saying in the process, a different way they could have said something.

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