Seeking reconciliation, not retribution.

My mom always used to always say, “two wrongs don’t make a right.” I struggled with this as a kid … and as an adult, I admit that it’s still not easy to internalize. Pushing back is a reflex. Revenge feels like justice. 

Of course, intellectually, I know that instead of seeking retribution, I need to seek first to understand, and only then seek to be understood. It’s Stephen Covey 101. But when I’ve lost patience with someone’s passive-aggressive behavior … it’s so tempting to just shove back with a little extra force, for interest. In business terms, I tell myself I’m holding my ground and demonstrating self-respect and authority. But then I hear my mom’s voice, and she’s telling me not to stoop to their level. Two wrongs don’t make a right. It’s basic math – when you add negative digits, you get deeper into the hole.

So, what’s the proper response? I try to re-channel the energy wasted on anger into understanding what is motivating the other guy.  I ask myself what’s driving their anger and frustration. Does it have to do with something that happened in the past? Is there a ticking bomb I need to diffuse? Have I somehow threatened them in a way that was unintended?

It helps to take a moment of objective reflection. Does this approach clear the air every time there’s a conflict? No, of course not. But two wrongs never make a right. They just make a bad situation worse.  The next time you’re tempted to fire back at someone with both barrels, listen to the little voice in your head. If it sounds like my mom, pay attention – she’s usually right.