Many years ago I had a friend who made fun of certain words and expressions we commonly use. For instance, she would ask who are “they” who make up rules about what is acceptable behaviour or wise advice like, “They say don’t swim after you eat”, or “They say if you tell the truth it becomes a part of your past. If you lie it becomes part of your future”. (I am not attributing these expressions as I am not able to find their derivation. They are time-worn statements I have heard as long as I can remember.)

In any case, these and many more phrases preceded by “they say” abound, and my friend asked one day if there is a place to find who “they” are. We laughed at that notion of how we would locate “them” and what “they” would be like. We wondered what our conversation would be like, if “they” drink coffee, whether “they” would invite us to meet with them again. I could go on.

I was remembering my friend the other day when I heard a conflict management coaching client state another time-worn statement about a dispute he was trying to manage. His words were, “They say it’s not a good idea to go to bed angry”. This and other “they say” statements have some wisdom to them and seem to make sense. But when I asked the client why it is a good idea to not go to bed angry, he said he really didn’t know because he needs some time and space to think things out. After all, “they say to sleep on it” (i.e. conflicts). Right?

There seems to be lots of expressions to be applied to conflict situations and they will undoubtedly be subjects of future ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blogs. For example, what about the phrases all preceded by “they say” such as: “let sleeping dogs lie”; “don’t add to the problem”; “forgive and forget”; and you likely have more to add (and feel free to do so in the Comments section).

For this week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog, the questions invite readers to deconstruct the phrase “they say don’t go to bed angry”.

  • Do you agree with the statement “don’t go to bed angry”?
  • If so, why?
  • If not, why not?
  • Who has made that statement to you, if anyone? Under what circumstances?
  • What made sense about the advice at the time? What didn’t?
  • Who have you made this expression to, if anyone? What made sense about it at the time?
  • What didn’t make sense?
  • As you think about this statement – “don’t go to bed angry” – under what circumstances do you think it applies? When does it not apply?
  • What other conflict-related homilies beginning with “they say” make sense to you? Why?
  • What “they say” expressions about conflict do not make sense to you? Why?

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

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