How often do you hear someone say: “I’m going to be the bigger (or better) person”?
It sounds like a noble goal. It means the speaker intends to rise above an opponent’s bad behavior, to respond to provocation with maturity and self-control and not sink to the other person’s level.
But think about it: is this statement really about doing the right thing? Or is it a way of convincing yourself that you are truly bigger and better than your opponent?
Put another way: does this attitude help to resolve the conflict, or is the primary purpose to create a feeling of status and self-empowerment in the speaker?
“I’m going to be the bigger, better person.”
Even if the other person hasn’t heard you actually say the words, this outlook can manifest itself in actions that convey your sense of superiority. It can change the way you present yourself, and not always for the better.
A more productive way to phrase your intention might be: “I’m going to bring my best self to this conflict.” Or, “I will take better and bigger steps than I planned.” Or, “I’m going to be better about how I …”
This removes the comparison to the other person. It makes resolving the conflict, rather than preserving your pride, your first priority. You are truly and authentically trying to do better than you have in the past.
Imagine how powerful these words could be:
- I was wrong.
- I could have…
- I will…
- How can I…
- What would help?
- What do you need from me?
True: bigger and better attitudes are desperately needed during divorce. But take a moment to consider: who am I, and who do I want to be, when I address this issue? What is my ultimate goal: to add fuel to the fire, or to minimize the chaos and reach a resolution faster?
Easier said than done, I know. But solutions are likely to be faster, smoother, and more lasting if both, or at least one, of the parties is willing to bring their best self to the table and take responsibility for past less-than-best actions.