A couple years ago a friend and colleague pulled me aside after a series of long debates. “Sometimes when we talk I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. I don’t say anything because I know it’s going to be such a fight. Talking to you can be exhausting.”
His comment resonated with me. Even I found the constant conflict exhausting. I was missing out on valuable feedback. I was straining important relationships. But the worst consequence was that it became impossible to express when something was really important to me. I fought so intensely over minor issues that there was no room to escalate when major issues came up.
What I learned from this exploration was the value of a proportional response. Fighting small battles with full strength was leaving me depleted of energy, influence, and valuable feedback. Now I try to scale my engagement on any given issue based on how important I think it is, how effective I think I can be in contributing, and how much time I want to dedicate to it.
I’m not perfect at this yet, but I’m better and the better I get the more rewarding it is. I have more energy. When major issues do come up, I don’t have to fight nearly as hard as I used to. People trust that when I escalate something it is meaningful. And my friends and colleagues like me more, too.