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Nobody Ever Forgets Where They Bury the Hatchet

“Nobody Ever Forgets Where They Bury the Hatchet” ~ Kin Hubbard

You have likely heard the expression to “bury the hatchet”, meaning essentially to make peace. According to various sources including Wikipedia, these words originated from an American Indian tradition. Hatchets were buried by the chiefs of tribes when they came to a peace agreement. This phrase is apparently recorded from the 17th century in English, but the practice it refers to began much earlier. These days it is not uncommon to hear people end an argument that appears to be resolved (and sometimes not) with – “let’s just bury the hatchet”. The meaning is typically meant to be about making peace and also, about letting things go, moving on, forgetting, getting over the blame and fault-finding and angry words exchanged, and so on.

Kin Hubbard, author of the title and quote of this week’s blog, a former cartoonist (now-deceased), wouldn’t agree that we really forget where we buried the hatchet. I take this to mean we remember the hurt, the transgressions, the emotions, the subject about which we fought, and so on. In my work as a conflict management coach, I would say there is validity to this and what we recall about our interpersonal disputes, and that we remember lots from them. Many of my clients, in fact, often refer to one or more “hatchets” that they haven’t buried and that continue to have an impact on their relationship with the person who offended them.

In research I did about the roots of interpersonal conflict many years ago, it was evident that the when the trigger point that starts us on our cycle of conflict cuts deeply to aspects of who we are in the world – to our values and needs and identities, for instance – we remember that incident and how we experienced it at some level our consciousness. I have heard many people go there easily – recollecting what initiated the dissension and what the other person said or did. Some of us are able to “bury the hatchet” in ways that don’t have a negative impact on the ongoing relationship; while others will bring it out when offended by the same sort of (or other) actions by the offending person.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog asks you to consider a situation in which you realize you haven’t buried the hatchet – and maybe you would like to.

  • What is the incident that occurred that remains with you?
  • What specifically did the other person say or do – or not say or do – that is especially hard for you to forget or let go of?
  • What sorts of things bring back the memories of those things you referred to in your answer to the previous question?
  • What was the impact on you at the time? What is the impact now when you recall the interaction?
  • How did you manage your reaction at the time?
  • What do you wish you had said or done in response?
  • If you had said or done what you wished you had what difference would that have made, do you think?
  • What do you suppose keeps the memory alive for you about this incident such that burying the hatchet isn’t happening?
  • Since it’s possible that it is important to you to not let go and not bury the hatchet, what makes it so?
  • What do you wish the other person would know and understand about what makes it hard for you to bury the hatchet? What benefits might there be in letting the person know?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

#conflict management

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