Someone has just insulted you. And for a split second, you’re like that deer caught in the headlights. Fight? Flight? Freeze? (Well, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a deer fight, but you get the picture).
You’re never quite sure what to do in these moments. Which means you usually do something you later regret. (Like that fight you had with your partner last night.)
When in doubt, just say thank you.
The better part of valor.
In Henry IV Part 1, Act V Scene 4, Shakespeare has his popular knight, Sir John Falstaff, say,
“The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have saved my life.’
Translation: Live to see another day.
You’ve been falling on your sword too much lately, and it’s not doing you much good.
I mean, yes. There are times when you want to fall on your sword or fight to the death. But come on, man. Let’s choose our battles more wisely, shall we?
Get ready now.
These insults come unexpectedly. You’re never quite prepared for the onslaught of injustice you suffer daily, especially in the moment at which it occurs.
For example: You’ve had a pretty good day. You’ve crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s. And then, after navigating all the forseen obstacles, something unforeseen rears its ugly head, unexpectedly (although, once we get through here, you may begin to anticipate the unexpected on a more regular basis).
And you explode. And then you’re sorry for the shrapnel you just spewed all over the place. You might even feel ashamed, depending upon who you just unloaded on, and how.
Say it with me, now.
When these things happen (and they will happen), just get ready with, instead of an F-Bomb or its equivalent, a thank you.
“Even when I’m not thankful?” You might ask.
Even when you’re not at all thankful. And yes, this might seem a bit cynical or disingenuous. But bear with me. Would you rather explode? (And, yes, I know. Sometimes you do want to explode. But again: choose your battles more wisely!)
And let’s think in terms of Primary Relationships: Those who know you (your partner, your kids, your friends) will know when you say thank you in these awkward moments, (when you don’t really mean thank you), that you are just doing your best not to act in ways you’ll later regret.
Those who don’t know you might not even realize you were about to bite their head off, and they don’t need to know. The fact is, you’ve just steered clear of something you’ll feel bad about later, and they are off somewhere sipping happily on their soda, not even knowing how mad they just made you, (or caring, for that matter).
So — The Better Part of Valor is Discretion.
Is this conflict avoidance?
Here’s the difference.
Conflict avoidance is when you have a genuine conflict with someone, and you’re wiggling out of facing the conflict.
For example: Let’s say you and your partner have an important issue of disagreement. Maybe your partner drinks more than you like and you are avoiding having that difficult conversation with your partner, because you don’t want to fight about it.
In this case, I suggest you find a way to talk about what you perceive to be a drinking problem, because this is something important to you. Not talking about it will degrade the relationship over time.
On the other hand, if someone attacks you verbally, and you really have no stake in the game, discretion is the better part of valor.
How do I face conflict in a healthy way?
For those times when you do want to enter into delicate territory, and face the conflict, think of it as negotiation. In other words, do your best to not take it personally. Separate the person from the problem. We have talked about this before in previous posts, and we will undoubtedly talk about it again, because facing conflict is so central to a healthy emotional life.
For now, please listen to this short (about 8 minutess) talk by Chris Voss. Then, come right back for today’s Takeaway.
Choose your battles wisely. There are many times when a deep dive into conflict is unnecessary. For these many times, as they occur, just say thank you.
Want more help?
I can help you remember the value of discretion in your daily life, so you can engage in the conflict only when it actually makes sense.