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Getting Off on the Wrong Foot

Getting off on the wrong foot refers to those situations that sometimes happen during first encounters with others. This may be at the beginning of a relationship, project, discussion, or any other interaction, when we find ourselves off to an unproductive or uncomfortable start. Something may have happened in our interactions to create these experiences or we pick up something that is off-putting. Someone else may have gossiped to us about the person and their negative views stuck with us. Often though, there is not a clear reason for what seems to have led to disconnection and, at times, even animosity.

The origin of this phrase – getting off on the wrong foot – is not clear from the resources I consulted. One reference suggested this phrase may come from the long-standing preference people have for the right. For instance, we have right and left and right and wrong, which tends to associate left with wrong. Also, there is a suggestion in the same source that in ancient Greece it was considered unlucky to put the left foot on the floor, or into one’s shoe, before the right foot. Yet another idea is that the concept of a right foot and a wrong foot comes from the military, where in order to march in step soldiers all have to start with the same foot.

Whatever the origin, the notion of getting off on the wrong foot is an experience we have or sense that has the potential for building the sorts of dynamics that perpetuate interpersonal conflict. At these times, redeeming ourselves or the other person doing so is often fraught with challenges. The quote by Will Rogers (also attributed to Oscar Wilde) “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression” may prevail at these times. As short-sighted and not conflict masterful as that may be, somehow, the negativity, ill feelings, poor impressions, and so on seem to take over.

This week’s ConflictMastery™ Quest(ions) blog is aimed at readers who feel they got off on the wrong foot with someone and possibly, discord developed between you. Thinking of a specific situation in which this occurred will be helpful when answering the following questions:

  • Generally-speaking, what does the expression to get off on the wrong foot with someone mean to you?
  • In a particular situation when this occurred, at what point did you feel you got off on the wrong foot with another person?
  • What specifically did the other person say or do that contributed to that experience? What did you say or do that may have also contributed? Or, what may someone else have said or done that resulted in this sort of impact?
  • How may the other person’s version of what occurred between you be the same or similar to yours? What may she or he perceive differently?
  • What evolved as a consequence of getting off on the wrong foot?
  • What did that feel like?
  • How may you describe what you hoped or expected about how you and the other person would connect?
  • How may you still make that happen, if you want to?
  • What may be the biggest challenge?
  • How will you overcome that challenge to do your part of getting on the ‘right’ foot?

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

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