I was cruising along on the only new motorcycle I ever owned, a 1970 Harley Davidson Rapido. I was 16 and very proud. I sense Harley riders everywhere spitting on their screens or newspapers as they read this, because the Rapido had a 125cc engine, insignificant by any real biker standards.
I was admiring the scenery as cyclists are prone to do, not paying much attention to the road, as many drivers of all types do, when the cyclists ahead of me stopped to make a turn. I looked for an emergency exit strategy as I had not allowed “assured clear stopping distance.” As I improvised an exit around them they turned directly into me. I still have the “road rash” to prove it.
The “emergency exit rule” is a win-win technique in conflict management or with anyone with whom you must have a tough talk. Here are some of its rules:
• Allow the other to “save face.” Don’t paint them into a corner. Give them an exit. Example: the officer could have used on me above (yes, I was cited to add insult to injury), “In your defense, the roads were very wet and slippery.” (They were.)
• Admit you were partly wrong, and be specific. You don’t have to take all the blame. Give the opportunity for the other to do the same. If they don’t, don’t demand it. Example: “I didn’t listen to or show I respected your position. That was wrong and I’m sorry for that. Please accept my apology.”
• Compliment them for any wrongs they admit and for the areas they are right. Actually commend and thank them for anything you can.
• Point out common ground and goals. Those are always present if you’re willing to take the tedious time, effort and grief of lengthy, painful discussion.
• Do the same to see their point of view, for their efforts to put themselves in your shoes, or meet you half way.*
“Honor one another above yourselves … in as much as possible … live at peace with all men … Each of us should live to please his neighbor for his good to build him up … God will provide a way of escape (emergency exits) …” (Romans 12:10, 18; I Corinthians 10:13).
All these will make the way smoother on your journey because they give you a way of escaping road rash and road rage on the treacherous trails of life.
Rick Sams is pastor emeritus of Alliance Friends Church.
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Bright Spot: Plan ahead, carefully respect those in conflict