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Can’t Face a Problem Head-On? Go Sideways!

No matter who you are, where you are, or how old you are, everyone can agree on this – life is challenging. It is a series of obstacles and hurdles set before us, occasionally offset with stations for respite. Like climbing up a step mountain, the view that your efforts sow make it all worth it as time goes on. By my gods, the amount of effort that has to be expended to start seeing any discernible change.

Things can become particularly infuriating when the obvious, the easiest, and the simplest solution is not an option you can explore. This can happen anywhere and with anyone. Your supervisor at work. A friend who, as much as you love them, can grate on your nerves from time to time. Or, a common source of aggravation in the UK, the trains. You can’t change people’s personalities, or control the trains to make them run more efficiently (though what a wonderful world that would be, eh?). What you are in control of is how you approach the situation.

If your boss is being a pain, reflect on why. Is it the same issue time and again, or inconsequential things? If the former, you know exactly what needs doing. If the latter, then in all likelihood the issue has little to nothing to do with you and everything to do with their need for a scapegoat. Fight the urge to give in and baa at them, fuelling their irritation and providing them with more reason to engage you. Instead, actively listen and respond with a calm, no-nonsense tone, and respectfully note that you need to get back to work so that the day’s to-do list gets completed.

Many people are reluctant to discuss issues they have with their friends. Like family, for the most part you cannot imagine life without them. But every now and then, they do something that irritates you to no end, and you need space. But what if they don’t give you the space you need?
A few years ago, I narrowly avoided a massive fight over nothing with a friend. That day in class, the teacher was utilising a PowerPoint slideshow to educate us. Being an eager beaver, I moved my seat for the optimum view of the presentation. My friend sat behind me the entire time. A few hours later and back home from school, I received a message from her.

‘You blocked my view in class, I couldn’t read the slides properly.’

While I did feel bad, I also felt a bit incredulous. Responding, I said, ‘Sorry about that, would you like me to send my notes over to you?’

‘I don’t want your notes. I wanted to read the slides.’ Sometimes, people don’t want solutions, they want arguments.

‘You could ask the teacher for the slides.’ This was something I’d done after some sick days.

‘No, I wanted to read them in class.’

‘Oh, well. Let’s sit side by side next time, then.’ She had nothing to say to that. And indeed, we did sit beside each other the next time we had to take PowerPoint notes.

As for trains, do what you can to give yourself ample time to get from Point A to Point B. If you have to deal with interchanges, purchase tickets with at least twenty minutes’ transfer time between trains. And remember this – If a train is delayed more than half an hour, you are entitled to a refund, so hold onto your ticket and grab a refund form from the information desk.

Like capturing the best of a waterfall, it can be a bit of hassle to take alternate routes to diffuse or avoid confrontation. But better to face minor inconveniences at the beginning than find yourself in the aftermath of a blowout.

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