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Pick Your Battles

It is said that the origin of the term “pick your battles” probably refers to a “military strategy where it would be a wise thing to pick and choose the battles. Fighting a war simultaneously on more than one front would make it difficult to secure either front. The basic idea being that when the troops are spread out, it is difficult to achieve success. The best way would be to mobilize the forces at a strategic point to ensure success and then move on to deal with the next issue.”

When it comes to our interpersonal conflicts, we often think of this expression to mean, essentially, that not all issues warrant fighting about. That is, it is a matter of discerning what is most important and worthy of our energy and emotion. A relevant quote in this regard is:

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.” – C. JoyBell C.

If you are wondering about a conflict and whether to assert your position or back off, here are some questions to consider.

  • What is the situation?
  • What specifically are you asserting or wanting to assert?
  • For what reason is that important to you?
  • What is the other person’s position on the issue(s) in dispute?
  • What makes that important to her or him, from what you know?
  • What do you want the other person to say or do?
  • If you didn’t choose to assert your view in this conflict, what do you think would happen?
  • What are the consequences of that outcome (your answer to the previous question)? What is positive about those consequences for you? For the other person?
  • In what ways is the battle worth fighting for? How is it not worth it?
  • What other choices are there about the issues in dispute that might be mutually acceptable?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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