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I’ve heard that many, if not most, of us, have a deep seated desire to write a book. I can admit I have had this desire for more than 20 years, and I am happy to say it is about to become a reality. If all goes as planned, my first book, "P.L.A.Y. N.I.C.E. in Your Sandbox at Work" will be released on April 1. That is not a joke.

The title is an acronym because each letter stands for a behavior or attitude or practice we can implement to either prevent conflict from coming into our lives (that’s the P.L.A.Y. portion) or effectively manage conflict that cannot or should not be prevented (the N.I.C.E. part).

As I cite in the introduction to the book, conflict is not necessarily a bad or negative factor in life. Some conflict is inevitable in any relationship, including, if not especially, a marriage. When we handle conflict poorly, the relationship suffers. When we address conflict well, the relationship can deepen and grow stronger.

Today, I share with you chapter one from the book in which I make the case that we can indeed refuse to take on many conflict situations that do not warrant our effort, time or resources. While the scenario addresses situations in the workplace, I think you will easily be able to relate them to your marriage.

In my college days, my friends and I frequently used the expression “get a grip.” We used this expression in a variety of contexts, but it typically served as a reminder to not let our emotions interfere with our thinking.

In more recent years, I facilitated the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families" course, where I learned a similar concept called “push the pause button in the driveway.”

To illustrate this concept, envision a situation in which a man arrives at work having just had a fight with his wife or child. Or he may have had a run-in with a fellow driver, gotten a speeding ticket or caught every red light. He may have heard some discouraging news on the radio.

Whatever the cause, he is arriving to work in a less-than-positive or pleasant mood. Instead of rushing to go inside, he pauses for a moment and analyzes his thoughts.

He reminds himself that he is about to go into a building where people will have certain expectations of him. He will be paid a fair wage in exchange for a fair day’s work. He realizes that his poor mood will likely interfere with his ability to do this well.

Thus prepared, he exits his vehicle and enters the workplace with a proper frame of mind to be productive and get along well with his co-workers.

I have had many opportunities to practice this habit of pushing the pause button, but one of the more memorable occurred at my local Walmart on Dec. 24. You might recognize the date as being the day before Christmas. It was not exactly where I wanted to be, but I needed something and had no reasonable alternative.

Before I got out of my truck, I turned off the ignition and tried to picture the scene inside the store. I imagined that I was about to encounter folks who were harried and stressed from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I imagined they would be rude and on edge and and demonstrating anything but “holiday cheer.”

With that realization in mind, I knew I had better choose my attitude or others would choose it for me. I ventured into the store and instantly realized I was a prophet. The store was packed, and happiness, peace and joy were the exception, rather than the rule. I spent the next 30 minutes smiling at folks, wishing them a Merry Christmas, offering them the opportunity to go first and sending silent prayers in their direction.

Now, I have to be honest and admit I never want to go to Walmart on Dec. 24 ever again. I will, however, long remember that occasion as one of the most joyful experiences of the many I have spent in that store. Had I not chosen my attitude, I would very likely have had a totally opposite, and regrettable, experience.

I tell this story to encourage you to consider pushing the pause button in the parking lot each day before entering your place of employment. As free moral agents, we can choose to go to work with a bad attitude, but I wouldn’t recommend it to those who wish to keep, or progress in, their job.

Flip Wilson built a career from his line “the devil made me do it.” While that brought him fame and fortune, it is not a viable excuse for a lousy attitude or poor work performance. We are each solely responsible for our demeanor and outlook on life.

We cannot control how others treat us, but by pushing the pause button, by taking time to choose our response to situations, we can be far more in control and far more likely to make appropriate decisions.

During a workshop I conducted for staff at my local community college, a participant suggested he should push the pause button before each of the several meetings he attended in a normal day. He realized how easy it is to bring negative energy from one meeting to another and how destructive this can be.

You often hear the expression “don’t try this at home,” usually referring to some dangerous stunt shown on TV. In the case of pushing the pause button, I highly recommend you absolutely try this at home — especially when you had a troublesome, frustrating day at work.

As a human being with free will, we have the option to bring a lousy attitude into the home and infect everyone there with our negativity. While permissible, this is not recommended. Try pausing, collecting yourself and choosing to walk into the home with an upbeat, positive attitude that will bode well for an enjoyable evening for all concerned.

Am I saying this is easy? Not always, but the benefits will be well worth whatever effort is required.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870. 

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