Today one of my chickens went missing.
I had let the chickens out to scratch in the backyard and one of them went AWOL. Three hours later I came across her in the front garden.
I was cross with her. I didn’t want her scratching in the front garden, as I have just planted some new plants.
I was also a bit surprised because in order to get from the backyard to the front she had to get over this fence:
and this one:
and walk along this path:
(which is frequented by people walking their dogs and so is dangerous for a lone chicken).
Why didn’t she just do what I wanted her to do and stay where I had left her? My mind came up with a story about how annoying and disobedient she was (as I write that sentence I am aware I sound a bit crazy!) and I accepted that story until I discovered this:
I then realised that she had made this long and rather treacherous journey because she needed to lay an egg and she wanted to do it in the right spot – which is in the nesting box, in the chicken pen, in the front garden.
So what does this teach us about conflict resolution?
Human minds have a tendency to come up with the worst possible explanation for why someone doesn’t do what we want them to do. We tend to assume that poor behaviour by others is caused by their disposition rather than the situation (the fundamental attribution error). If we can recognise this tendency in ourselves and hold these thoughts more lightly, then we are less likely to unreasonably tell a co-worker, friend, partner or chicken off.
Next time someone annoys you. Remember my chicken and her journey. Could the person actually just be trying to do the right thing?