The other day a colleague (I’ll call her Janet) told me she and a co-worker (I’ll call him David) had a heated disagreement about a work matter. Janet went on to say that David called her a few hours after and left a contrite message asking to have a coffee and work things out. She then told me she decided not to reply for a few days to let David “stew in his own juices” for a while. When I asked what she means by that, Janet answered, “I thought I’d just let him feel badly a little longer for being a jerk”.

I found myself internally reacting and I wondered what motivated Janet’s decision to let David “stew”. I don’t know Janet all that well and hesitated to pry. I started to think though about what reasons may compel that choice of coping. I thought maybe Janet perceived whatever David did was too egregious for her to forgive. Maybe she felt so offended she wanted to retaliate and cause David to worry about the consequences. Maybe it is about asserting power. Whether Janet’s approach was due to these or other reasons, I thought her decision worth exploring in this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog and specifically, the expression “stew in his own juices”. This phrase is often used when someone determines they are not going to respond to another with whom there has been a conflict. According to the source I found, it is about leaving the other person to fret, suffer, and ruminate about what occurred.

If you have used this expression or essentially implied it by purposely refusing to talk about a conflict situation when the other person attempts to do so, these questions are some to consider.

  • What was (is) the situation between you and the other person?
  • For what reasons would you rather not talk about it with her or him?
  • What offended, hurt, or angered you most about what the other person said or did? What emotion most aptly applies of the ones mentioned or others?
  • What do the juices represent in this situation and with that person? What does stewing mean?
  • What do you hope to gain by the other person stewing in her or his own juices? What are the risks?
  • What impact is stewing likely to have on her or him, do you think?
  • What impact is it having on you – that she or he is stewing?
  • If you do not achieve what you are hoping by her or him stewing, what difference will that make?
  • What are you not addressing that may help you in this situation?
  • What other options may accomplish what you want regarding the situation and/or the relationship with you and the other person?

What other ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) may you add here?

Originally posted at

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