I am, and have always been, a peacemaker. Conflict makes me edgy. I feel a personal responsibility to lighten the air with humor when two people are going at it in a heated exchange or hostile negotiation. Early in my career, I felt compelled to make others laugh so they would chill out on the arguing.
Here’s the problem. It wasn’t my fight.
I got once got admonished for cracking a joke in a staff meeting when two verbal combatants were debating in front of everyone before making a decision. “You’re not helping, David” is what I heard loud and clear. And honestly, I was embarrassed to get that reprimand publicly.
Afterwards, I received a helpful analogy from a colleague. He said, “Arguments in the boardroom are like hockey player fights. The refs never jump in and break it up until the two players are exhausted from punching and fall down on the ice. If you jump in too soon, you might take an unnecessary roundhouse to the jaw.”
So for all of you fellow keepers of the peace out there, perhaps you should take a deep breath, calm your soul and wait out the end of the fight next time. It may be difficult, but take heart… you will be extremely valuable in the recovery process.