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May 15, 2011

The Cellular Demur - Part II

In the last post, I shared a letter I wrote to a parent who had brought a grievance to me over a damaged piece of property. I joylessly concluded that resolving the issue amicably would be impossible because the other parent was closed-minded and unwilling to share in the responsibility to verify what had actually occurred – both during the event and for the necessary steps afterwards.
Truth be told, I feel like I failed in this situation. While the clock cannot be put back and also while denying funds is justified, I had hoped for a better finale to this scene. Unfortunately, I was unable to overcome the other side’s perspective of the circumstance.
Perspective in this scenario oddly reminded me of Braveheart. My incident had no violence and no blue-faced conscription to remind me of the film. However, the perspective and undeniable certainty of being right is what brought this historic movie to mind.
As most know, during the late thirteenth century the Scots rebelled against their English rulers. As depicted in the film, the ruling English nobility treated its occupied citizenry in some awfully horrid ways. I sometimes try to think of the film from England’s perspective, but get caught up in the story and lose my academic effort. However, even though the English are wrong for the atrocities they do, the individuals who rape, punish by torture and terrorize the Scots really believe it is their right and/or duty to perform these acts – and hold no remorse or regret, justified in their own minds for these actions.
It is difficult to imagine the lack of conscience and the audacity to perform the droit du seigneur. Stealing a husband’s new wife before his very presence seems unthinkable in our modern culture. But according to historians, this tradition can be traced at least 3000 years prior to the setting of Braveheart. A twist of religious corruption combined with valuing a group of people as less than human allowed most English lords of the time to be completely convinced there was nothing wrong or invalid with this practice. Thus, the use of force and violence to defend it and other mistreatments were simply part of law and order in their view.
To segue from British history to my incident of a broken phone, I noticed this same undeniable right of something owed when negotiating with the mother with whom I tried to resolve the issue. She was unyielding in her perspective of what was proper. There was only one acceptable way to handle the issue, and she was unyielding to the point of hurling insults and character defamations at me and my daughter to force her perspective of justice for the damage. Even after I delivered the written letter (shared in Part I), this mother contacted my daughter yet again, spewing horrible words and insults. She somehow viewed the use of acrimony was simply part of her defendable actions to claim "justice" from her unswayable perspective.
I didn’t recognize her unwillingness to consider anything other than her own perspective until we had traveled too far down the path. She now feels that I lied about things I never actually said, but from her perspective she heard my negotiation how she wanted to hear it.
Knowledge and what to do with it are separate things. I don’t know if recognizing her obdurate view sooner would have made any difference in the outcome and honestly doubt any difference would have resulted. However, by not seeing it sooner and making the attempt to acknowledge and empathize from her perspective, part of the failed resolve lies on my own shoulders. Blame aside, the experience nonetheless has made me rethink how I enter negotiations in the future.

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