By Betty Slade
We locked horns. A standoff. He didn’t move. His mind closed. I said to this writer in a small critique group: “You say you want our input, but you won’t listen. It won’t work if you’re going to put a list of 700 Bible verses in the front of your book. Put them in the back. People will shut down and shut your book before they wade through all those verses. It will be meaningless to them.” I thought I had given him good advice.
He said, “I know they’re not going to read them, but I’m putting them in the front anyway. I want it like that and it’s done. I’m not changing a thing.”
“A publisher is not going to pick up your book the way it is. If you think it’s finished, then set it aside and write something else.”
“I’m not interested in writing anything else.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
After the smoke cleared and our small group joined the big group, I said to him, “Our conversation was very heated. That bothers me.”
“It was a good debate. I liked it. No problem. I’m fine.”
No one moved. He was satisfied. I wasn’t. Why did it bother me so much? I felt like he was stuck. I wanted to unstick him and move him along. He had reached the top of his hill and I thought he should go to the other side and climb another mountain. He didn’t want to.
I heard a story from a friend. The story seemed to say everything I wanted to say and needed to hear. No amount of pushing or prodding will change a person’s mind. They will do what they want to do until they’re ready to move on. Maybe we need to learn to leave them alone.
My friend told me about her dear sweet little mother who had a stroke and couldn’t talk. For three years, she didn’t say one word. Everyone worried about her. They pampered her, took pity on her. They encouraged her to say something.
She didn’t. Then one day out of the blue, the first words came from her mother’s mouth when asked, “Are you OK?”
“Hell no, I’m not OK.”
That’s how I felt that Monday morning. The writer was fine, I wasn’t. Was it because he was immovable and I wanted to change him, or did I not understand that was his hill? He was totally satisfied and was willing to die there. His 400-page book was finished. Period. Like it or not.
Who was I to tell him differently? Was I fine with it? No, I wasn’t fine, but that’s my problem. I needed to learn something.
I tagged him to be stubborn, maybe even passive aggressive, but did I misunderstand his mission? Was he asking for reviews or critiques? I couldn’t give him a five-star review and he didn’t want my critiques.
I’m not in the mood to change a 70-year-old man’s behavior. I told him I was glad I wasn’t married to him. He probably thought, “Thank God I’m not married to you, either.” This man knew what he wanted. He had climbed his hill. He had no problem standing his ground. I told him I was writing about him. He was happy.
Final brushstroke: We are all unique. We have our own way of coping and dealing with things. We need to meet people where they are, even if that’s the hill they want to die on.
Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.