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Axe to Grind

You have likely heard of the phrase “axe to grind” and here’s a little story about the derivation of this phrase:

“Benjamin Franklin published a lot of stories, one of which he was the central character. Franklin was approached by a stranger who stopped to admire the family grindstone.  He asked to be shown how it worked and offered Ben Franklin an axe to demonstrate. Once his axe was sharp the stranger walked off laughing.”

Though the expression has taken on quite a different meaning today, the idea of having an axe to grind usually refers to having a grudge or dispute with someone about which we seek some answers, recourse or justice.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an “axe to grind” you may have with someone – perhaps, a grudge over some action, a dispute between you, an unresolved issue and so on. These questions might help unpack the situation:

  • What is the situation about?
  • What specifically is your axe to grind?
  • What is the ongoing impact on you?
  • What does the other person know about your perspective?
  • What does the other person not know?
  • What is the other person’s axe to grind about you?
  • What is the best-case scenario if things resolve between you and the other person?
  • What is the worst-case scenario if things don’t resolve?
  • What would be different for you if you no longer had an axe to grind?
  • How else might it change the dynamic between you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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