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3 questions to put you in control of frequently occuring quarrels

3 questions to put you in control of Frequently Occurring Quarrels
One of the commonest things I hear in the mediation room is the tale of the Frequently Occurring Quarrel or FOQ. This is the issue that never really goes away. It might die down for a while but then, suddenly, it is back and we are going over the same ground, using the same words, feeling the same frustration. FOQs can be draining, productivity sapping and misery making whether they are taking place at home or at work.

By the time that we get to the mediation room, all the parties are exhausted, aggrieved and often just plain angry. I believe mediation offers the best, most effective way of unpicking these entrenched issues but I am also keen (keener) that we explore what we can do much, much earlier to resolve the FOQ without anyone else’s help. I believe that there are 3 questions that we should ask ourselves the moment we detect an FOQ in our lives. I’m going to talk about these questions in a series of blogs.

The 3 Questions we could ask ourselves at the first sign of an FOQ are:

Can I change it?
Can I live with it?
If I can’t change it and I can’t live with it, what am I going to do about it?

So, today we are going to look at question 1

Can I change it?
The easiest way by far to resolve an issue or unstick a situation is to look at what choices we can make to alter our own behaviour. I believe that we often overlook this first and simplest step to a solution.

As an example, my husband and I had a long-term, embedded Frequently Occurring Quarrel (FOQ). 
I am, most of the time, quite a “tasky” sort of person. If there is stuff to be done I like to name it, prioritise it and get it done and dusted. Can’t bear to do half a job.  My husband isn’t!  So, on the domestic front, I take the lead on “stuff” that needs to be done at the weekend. “Stuff” is planned for Saturday morning leaving us free to have a nice lunch and do something entertaining during the afternoon.  Some jobs need to involve David because I am short, not as strong as him and have the spatial awareness of a stunned whelk.

Weekend after weekend we would get to Saturday lunchtime. I had finished all the “wife can do them” jobs but David had finished none of the “needs husband input” jobs. Result – FOQ – me cross because he has had all morning and has obviously been day-dreaming. Him – cross because he has been working all morning trying to complete all the tasks I have asked him to do and now I am having a strop!

We did this for years! The transforming moment came when we discovered that David lives with many of the effects of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). His ADD has given him some awesome gifts and abilities but also provides him with a greater than normal capacity for being distracted.

My “keep it moving” style of task management works effectively for me. I like to line the next job up in my head as I am working on the current task. This lets me plan where I need to go and what tools etc. I will need to power through.  To help David out I would do the same for him – trail the next job whilst he is working on the current one. For David, who’s head works completely differently, what happens is:

I identify a job to be done requiring his input. I describe the job, he says yes and starts work. 25 minutes later job number 2 occurs to me, I outline job number 2 to David. He says yes, puts down job number 1 and starts job number 2. 40 minutes later job number 3 occurs to me. I outline job number 3 to David. He says yes, puts down job number 2 and starts job number 3.  Come lunchtime he has the incomplete workings of 3 separate jobs spread around the house and garden. Oh! And a shouty, unreasonable wife. Again!

I’ll say it again. We are both intelligent, compassionate people and we did this for YEARS!

Our discussions about ADD gave me the kick up the bum that I needed to recognise I could remove this life sapping FOQ at a stroke by changing my behaviour.  I could change it without needing David to do anything. I could change it.  I stopped the running commentary of upcoming jobs. Now we either discuss all the jobs at the start of the morning and work out the order we can do them in or, if something occurs to me when David is already doing something, I wait till he is finished.  It’s not rocket-science is it?

I was frustrated and annoyed with my husband, and he with me, every Saturday for years and years. Recognising that I could make a simple change to stop that happening was amazing.

Keep an eye out for the next blogs in this series - 3 questions to put you in control of Frequently Occurring Quarrels:

Can I live with it?

If I can’t change it and I can’t live with it, what am I going to do about it?