Do you consider yourself independent? What does that mean to you? Are you comfortable being interdependent?
When people call me “independent,” I historically wore it as a badge of honor. It meant I could take care of myself and maintained a sense of personal control over my life. (The “illusion of control” may be an entirely different blog post).
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy and appreciate many facets of “independence,” yet am very cognizant that I enjoy water, food, rest, and security because of people I never met managing water systems, growing, hauling, processing, and selling plants and animals, cutting trees and building furniture, and wearing the uniform and putting their lives on the line.
What does independence have to do with conflict resolution? Autonomy, self-determination, self-expression, and independence all fall in the same basic needs category. This need for independence sometimes comes into conflict with needs for support, understanding, respect, and security.
Imagine a family mediation where a spouse shares feeling disrespected when the partner acts independently in making household decisions. The decision-maker may be taken aback by that comment and feel equally frustrated that the other person “does not step up and do anything.”
Similar issues arise in the workplace. Someone who works independently may seem the ideal employee, until the independence stretches into not sharing information with team members. Clearly communicating needs and expectations, and engaging in dialogue about how to best meet these for everyone helps create resolution.
Whether at home, in an organization, or out in the community, independent actions inevitably impact other people. The person driving 85 mph without a seatbelt may be a perfectly great driver. Yet, when a deer runs into the side of their vehicle, they likely place themselves and other people in even more danger than if they had been traveling the posted limit.
We do not have to choose between being fully independent or fully interdependent. Being mindful of whether a particular moment calls for an act of independence or interdependence, and the consequences for each, remains important.
How would you describe your level of independence? What impact does that have on the people around you?
As we near the 245th anniversary of the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, I am grateful for the many freedoms that I enjoy. It does not escape me, however, that while independence feels wonderful, it takes interdependence to build a successful family, workplace, and community, and for humanity to survive and thrive.