Dwayne the bathtub, I'm dwowning.
We used to laugh out loud at this silly joke. But there is so much good sense in its wisdom, a reminder that we need to keep things from overflowing, festering or drowning us. We have to release the drain. We need to remember to not let the tea kettle boil over. After all, that's what the whistle is for---to keep the tea kettle from blowing it's top. If only we humans came with a whistle---a warning that we are about done. Unfortunately, what happens instead, is we keep dwowning in our own bath water.
When talking with educational leaders and teachers, I hear people say things like "That's just the way he is" or "Things are never going to change" or "I can't say anything or I will just blow up". The common theme seems to be the need to talk about something but a belief that talk will not solve things. My analogy is the drain that continues to clog up with built up residue. Day after day, the "gunk" continues to grow until there is no longer a hole large enough for water to flow through the pipes. What do we need? A good dose of drain clog remover.
When anger and resentments build up with people with whom we work, we must tackle the clog before we can end up with clean pipes. But how? Here are my top three suggestions:
1. Tackle it before it gets worse: Any problem is better dealt with at its early stages. Have you ever heard people say, "We've been fighting so long, I can't even remember what started the whole thing." My book club has just finished reading "A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman. While it is an amazingly poignant and funny read, one of the hallmarks of the story is a chasm that develops between two friends and continues until neither can quite remember what precipitated the fight in the first place. A teacher recently told me, "I don't mind being observed, but I am just lucky my principal likes me." Yikes!!
2. Tackle it yourself, or it will require a costly plumber to come in and repair it. I've heard teachers and school leaders talk about how they have to have outside mediation every time they try to work out a problem. While there isn't anything inherently wrong with needing professional help or mediation to help resolve a conflict, the very nature of having another person involved in our problem reflects the fact that we can't resolve it ourselves. I recently talked with teachers in a school who said, "We don't feel comfortable talking to our administration without our union representation there with us." As Stephen M. R. Covey says, trust impacts everything but can be grown if we work at it.
3. Be reasonable. Most folks who have ever worked any sort of 12-step program have heard the saying, "Resenting someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." In other words, we have to think reasonably if we are going to tackle any sort of problem we have with someone else. It just makes sense to try to work out issues we have with those people with whom we work, but we have to do it with reason and a sensible nature. We need to take responsibility for our part in whatever the problem is, and allow others to do the same.
Just for today, perhaps we can examine our built-up resentments and frustrations. We can refrain from resentments and unclog our drains of anger for the greater good.